Rossini: Album Français (Péchés de vieillesse)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Opus 111
WORKS: Album Français (Péchés de vieillesse)
PERFORMER: Maryse Castets, Mechthild Georg, Jean-Luc Maurett, Michel Brodard, Raimund NolteElzbieta Kalvelage (piano), Marcel Jorand (percussion), Christoph Spering (harmonium, organ); Chorus Musicus/Christoph Spering
CATALOGUE NO: OPS 30-70 DDD
This fascinating collection of ‘miniatures’ dates from three decades after Rossini forsook the operatic stage for retirement. Many, only recently published, received premieres at his Parisian soirées, attended by the musical glitterati of the day. What a masterly hand they betray! Soliloquies for Shakespeare’s Romeo, a cascading ‘Gipsy Song’, a gentle Christmas pastorale, a tender ‘Ave Maria’. French vocal discs can be fuzzy. Not this one. In spite of some ill-stretched tenor and overzealous chorale, the performances come off well, helped by Elzbieta Kalvelage’s consistent adroitness.

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It must be said, the controlled acoustic here is generally excellent. Only some mild background flutter and the odd keyboard sigh or after-echo prevent it earning a full rating. Most solos and duets are first-rate, not just in voice placing but in deft, vital characterisation.

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A few works have appeared elsewhere, though uncollected. Stylistically they span Weberian huntsmen’s chorus and Victorian melodramatic ballad, from Schubert song to Pearl Fisher’s duet, Chabrier wit and children’s ditties whose range anticipates Mussorgsky. They should give pleasure to Lieder – and opera – lovers alike. Who would have thought the Old Man had so much sang in him? Roderic Dunnett