Francesco Nicolosi / Luigi Piovano

Giovanni Paisiello: Piano Concertos Nos. 1, 3, 5

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Known mostly as an operatic contemporary of Mozart, Giovanni Paisiello had a long life and generally managed to prosper through the upheavals of the eighteenth century's last decade. He wrote eight keyboard concertos clearly marked by operatic style. Part of his early career was spent in the service of Catherine the Great in Russia, and the first of the three concertos recorded here was composed in the early 1780s and dedicated to one of the Empress' notorious ladies-in-waiting. Annotator Keith Anderson seems confident that it was written with a harpsichord in mind, but cites no basis for the opinion; it certainly seems possible that Catherine would have imported examples of a new instrument that had been in existence for several decades in Italy. At any rate, the modern piano employed on this recording would not have been authentic for any of the three concertos here. The expansive Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major is the most interesting of the three, with extremely Mozartian outer movements. The architecture is less intricate than that in Mozart, but the striking treatment of the winds suggests that Paisiello knew the works of Mozart's early maturity. The hefty central movement with its discursive wanderings resembles an operatic scene, less Mozart-like, but equally unusual. The other two concertos, written for a Parmesan princess later in the 1780s, are more modest in scale but also attractive. Pianist Francesco Nicolosi has replaced both the orchestra and the annotator used on his first Paisiello concerto disc; the essay on Paisiello is better, but the Campania Chamber Orchestra under Luigi Piovani has a choppy sound that doesn't serve the music well, and the sound is not especially pleasant. Still, the first concerto is well worth knowing for pianists and Classical-period lovers alike.

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