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James Manheim, November 2010

Performance 4 STARS
Sound 3 STARS

Gioacchino Rossini's Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of Old Age) have gained new admirers in a time appreciative of irony and satire, and several cycles of recordings are underway. What strikes one in exploring any of them is how extensive the repertoire is in total, and how completely wrong the conventional narrative has it with the suggestion that Rossini's career "ended" with William Tell. The Péchés de vieillesse extended to 14 volumes, requiring around as many CDs for a complete set as Beethoven's sonatas do, and Rossini wrote several major sacred pieces besides. What is in question here is a new phase of a composer's career, not an addendum to it. At any rate, Naxos' cycle of the Péchés by the young Italian pianist Alessandro Marangoni has been consistently enjoyable. Even if it would be possible to imagine a somewhat broader brand of humor in the parody of pianistic gestures involved such pieces as "Un sauté" (track 11), or, for goodness' sake, "Hachis romantique" (Romantic Hash, track 12), Marangoni's quiet, precise readings put the point across well. The disc is full of superb examples of the humor in these works, and it's not clear why Rossini designated this set as being "pour les enfants adolescents"; the pieces are no simpler or less sophisticated than those from other sets. With its triple exclamation points, La Lagune de Venise à l'expiration de l'année 1861!!! (The Venice Lagoon at the Expiration of the Year 1861!!!) is a unique parody of the overheated programmatic work familiar in the output of composers like Louis Moreau Gottschalk. The fascinating Prélude convulsif (Convulsive Prelude, track 8) mixes Chopin-like passages with Baroque-style counterpoint that swells and then fades away. The significance of the title of Ouf! Les petits pois (Oof! The Peas, track 10) must have faded away with time, but the work is an effective essay in the style of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, and perhaps a comment on their continent-wide success. About the only negatives with this enjoyable release are the somewhat empty auditorium sound and some rather stolid booklet notes that don't catch the flavor of the music. Still, this can safely be recommended to listeners matching Marangoni's cycle or mixing it with others.

Jed Distler, May 2010

The fifth book of Rossini’s “Sins of My Old Age” piano cycle consists of 12 pieces that abound with humor, pianistic ingenuity, and unexpected harmonic zingers. The pieces are trickier to play than they sound, and make the most impact with a pianist who understands their character and can “ham them up” without being vulgar…Première Communion’s easy lilt and punchy “shave and a haircut” rhythmic interjections, Un Sauté’s energetic octaves, the insouciance of L’innocence Italienne: La Candeur Française’s flashy passagework, and a high-spirited rendition of the Prélude Convulsif…A good disc, overall

J. Scott Morrison, January 2010

Rossini had a droll sense of humor and nowhere is this more obvious in the thirteen volumes of 'Péchés de vieillesse' ('Sins of Old Age') which he wrote for solo piano in his latter years. This is the third volume of what promises to be all of Rossini's piano music played by the young Italian, Alessandro Marangoni. The selections on this CD come from the fifth volume which Rossini titled 'Album pour les enfant adolescents' ('Album for Adolescent Children'). The first piece 'Première communion' ('First Communion') depicts the religious rite of first communion followed by an informal celebration of the event. Then comes a Theme and Variations ('Thème et variations, idem ...'), the last variation of which has really quite striking rapid octaves in both hands. 'Saltarello à l'italienne' is a gentle piece in 6/8, not as lively as the title might lead one to expect; actually it sounds more like a gavotte. 'Prélude moresque' has the expected Moorish exoticism in, one must say, small doses. 'Valse lugubre' is actually less than lugubrious, is even lighthearted, another of Rossini's misleadingly witty titles.

'Impromptu anodin' ('Harmless Impromptu', hence the title of this review) again is drily witty. 'L'innocence italienne; la candeur française' ('Italian innocence; French candor') contrasts stereotypical Italian naïveté with mercural French wit. It's not clear who wins. But one is reminded of Italian folksong and Offenbachian gaîté parisienne. 'Prélude convulsif' is indeed interrupted several times by almost convulsive mock-dramatics and contains some delicious faux-baroque counterpoint. 'La Lagune de Venise à l'expiration de l'année 1861!!!' ('The Venice Lagune at the End of the Year 1861!!!') gently jokes about the beginning of Italian unity under King Vittorio Emmanuele in that year by pointing out (by quoting the Radetsky March) that Venice was still under the control of Austria (where it remained until 1866). The piece is a gentle barcarolle.

The title of 'Ouf! Les petits pois' ('Oof! The peas!) has no clear connection with the music other than reminding us of Rossini's lifelong interest in things gastronomic. The same is true of the next piece 'Un sauté' which despite its name sounds like Chopin. The final piece in the Fifth Album (and also one with gastronomic implications) is 'Hachis romantique' ('Romantic Hash') which sounds like a Clementi sonatina.

These pieces are not deathless music, and indeed were not really intended to be. Most were originally played at gatherings at Rossini's home where informality, good wine and lots of good food were the rule. They do, however, reminds us what a fountain of good tunes Rossini was and they are given delightful performances by pianist Marangoni.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2009

Imagine being forced into retirement from a successful career at the age of thirty-seven. That was the prospect that faced Rossini. Officially it was the onset of ill-health, though those less charitable believing that good sense prevailed, his style fast becoming outdated. He was to spend most of his final years composing piano pieces, rather appropriately named Péchés de vielliesse (Sins of Old Age), which appeared in thirteen volumes, aimed as pleasing diversions rather than concert pieces. Yet when played by someone who really believes in the music, they take on an added dimension. Alessandro Marangoni, as I have remarked earlier in the series [Vol 1 8.570590–91, Vol 2 8.570766], has an inbuilt feel for the music, and enters fully into Rossini’s humour as pastiches poke fun at the music around him. Listen to the second piece in this fifth volume and surely he is mimicking the young Liszt, and later the new vogue for dressing dances with the most elaborate decorations are the butt of his fun. Chopin often hovers in the background, particularly in the eleventh section, while the profusion of notes in the seventh, L’innocence italienne, stems from Clementi, while at one stage introducing a Bach-style fugue. The pieces are stated in the title ‘for adolescent children’, but that is another of Rossini’s jokes as they are often technically demanding, Marangoni playing them with unassuming ease. He is making the series an ongoing delight and his recording engineer shares in that accolade.

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