- Péchés de vieillesse, Book 5 (Album pour les enfants adolescents)
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.