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Uncle Dave Lewis, September 2009

These are not small “sins”; although some pieces are short enough to qualify as miniatures, they average about six to nine minutes in length and two top the 11-minute mark. Usually the Péchés are recorded in select form or used to fill out another program, and Ottorino Respighi fashioned his fanciful ballet La Boutique Fantasque out of a few of them. This Naxos disc, however, provides the opportunity to understand them within their own context. Rossini was a composer who appropriated no more from romanticism than what he needed to make his overtures sound bigger and badder; once you got into the opera part of his operas his music was more or less completely classical in approach. In the Péchés, which date from the last decade of Rossini’s life, the old composer was finally up to date with current trends, but interestingly he has little or no interest in the German side of the romantic coin; this music is strongly informed by the example of French opera and ballet. Several of the pieces bear silly titles—“Mon prélude hygénique du matin” and “Valse torturée” for example—and on the whole they are not grand statements either technically nor artistically; “La Pesarese,” for example, could be played by a decent third grade or intermediate pianist without even breaking a sweat. However, “Memento homo” is an exception, being a very dark and serious piece that opens with a severe and uncharacteristic parallel modulation unusual for its time. While essentially conservative stylistically, one senses continuity with the spirit of Satie in a lot of this music, given its moribund surface features, simulations of deliberately banal music hall tunes, and general irreverence; its lack of ambition and disdain of seriousness actually makes it interesting. Pianist Alessandro Marangoni is wise to play this music mostly as it lays, without going the extra distance to dress it up; Naxos’ recording is a little distant, but good. While Rossini’s Album for Smart Kids probably won’t build one’s brain or raise one’s blood pressure level like, say, the overture to La Gazza Ladra, it may well serve as something nice to play while housecleaning, entertaining guests, or other tasks that do not require a great deal of concentration, but might call for suitably elegant entertainment.

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, March 2009

Many general musical histories give the impression that after Rossini’s retirement from writing operas in 1829 he wrote only minor works apart from the two large sacred works—the Stabat Mater and the Petite Messe Solennelle. Certainly the majority of the music contained in his two main collections of music written after that date—Les Soirées Musicales and Péchés de Vieillesse—consist of relatively short pieces. Despite their titles as a whole they are not trivial or unenjoyable. Respighi made an astute decision in choosing to orchestrate a number of them for Le Boutique Fantasque [Naxos Classical Archives 9.80599] and Rossiniana [8.557711]. Anyone who enjoys those arrangements is likely to want to get to know the remainder of the collections from which Respighi made his selection.

The present disc contains the majority of Volume VI. No 11—“Étude asthmatique”—will apparently be included in a later disc in Naxos’s intended complete Rossini piano music. The music we have here is full of variety, invention and wit.

John Terauds
Toronto Star, February 2009

This young Italian pianist continues to record the almost-forgotten musical bonbons from the Parisian retirement years of Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). This generous disc includes most of the Album pour les enfants dégourdis (Album for Smart Children), with such whimsical titles as "My Hygenic Prelude of the Morning" and "Little Pleasure Train." This music, all surfaces reflecting gilded salons, requires a high level of artistry to pull off. Marangoni sparkles and seduces over and over again.

J Scott Morrison, January 2009

This, then, is Volume II of a series that will include all of Rossini’s piano pieces. They are played by a thirtyish Italian, Alessandro Marangoni. And it is true that these mostly are works that are within the reach of moderately advanced amateurs. But there is nothing amateurish about Marangoni’s playing. He has élan, a firm feel for the comic and the lyrical, and steely fingers…Marangoni certainly has the goods and I have been delighted to hear this CD over and over…Recommended for those who like their Rossini but don’t know his piano music.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, January 2009

At the height of his success as an opera composer Rossini unexpectedly retired at the age of thirty-seven, spending his final years writing little more than thirteen volumes of piano pieces. Ill-health certainly contributed to his decision and the combined title of those piano scores, Péchés de vielliesse (Sins of Old Age), probably gives a clue to his thoughts at the time. They were not devoid of humour but he had lost much of his ability to find those catchy melodies that had created operatic’s ‘best selling arias’. The present disc contains all but the penultimate of the twelve sections of the Sixth volume, Album pour les enfantes dégourdis (Album for Smart Children), the CD unable, from a time point of view, to include this section. Whether or not intended, they are pastiche, and here we pass through so many influences—Liszt, for instance, opening the third section—and Rossini often pokes fun in the quasi-seriousness of his many references to Wagner. The Seventh, Une caresse à ma femme, will be recognised for its use in the effervescent ballet La Boutique Fantasque. In Fausse couche de polka mazurka (Miscarriage Polka Mazurka) he takes gentle fun out of the growing passion for Viennese dance music, withthe twelfth piece in sombre mood, the lower octave sounding out the muffled drum for Un enterrement en Carnaval (A Carnival Interment), building to a powerful conclusion, it makes a strange ending to an album with such a title. The soloist is the Italian, Alessandro Marangoni, and as I remarked in his earlier volume, the performances have that requisite feel of a pianist who really believes in the music, the phrasing imaginative and the fingers neat and nimble. Good sound.

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