The delightful titles of so many of Rossini's piano works suggest that they are all lightweight predecessors of Satie, but his Album de Château contains some very substantial works. Spécimen de Mon Temps, Prélude Semipastorale, Prélude soi-disant Dramatique, and Spécimen de l'Avenir all last longer than 10 minutes each, making them equal in size to Chopin's Ballades or Scherzos, and several other pieces on this disc are almost as long. But beyond mere questions of size, Rossini packs each piece with eventful, characterful music. In several cases the titles do in fact tell all.
Prélude Prétentieux is (what else?) a fugue, and a very good one too. Valse Anti-Dansante speaks for itself, and makes its points with as much poetry as rhythmic displacement. Un Rêve is a haunting nocturne, while the most interesting piece conceptually is the Tarentelle pur Sang (avec Traversée de las Procession).
Using a magnificently fresh-toned 1858 Pleyel piano, Paolo Giacometti plays each piece (and they are not easy) with consummate technique and a dry wit that never crosses the boundaries of good taste. Rossini certainly would have approved, and the sonics, whether in stereo or SACD surround formats, are drop-dead fabulous. The piano is positioned naturally in an ideally warm, clear space, its timbre full but always crisp. You can practically reach out and touch it.
Giacometti's beguiling artistry really does conjure a picture of Rossini and his friends enjoying an evening of good music and good company. For all the jokingly self-deprecating titles, this is masterly stuff by an immensely wise and experienced composer, immaculately crafted and stunningly presented. You'll love this disc.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com