Notes and Editorial Reviews
Everyone knows about Charles Gounod’s operas and choral works, but who knew that he also wrote solo piano music? I certainly didn’t, until this release came to my attention. It offers a judiciously contrasted representation of the composer’s keyboard output, starting with two beautiful charmers: a barcarolle entitled (what else?) La Veneziana, and an Impromptu that’s actually a peach of a waltz. The E-flat Nocturne may not dig deep like Chopin, but there’s no doubting Gounod’s disarming gift for cranking out lovely tunes. Once past the Funeral March for a Marionette’s quirky introduction, veteran TV buffs will have an “aha” moment when the main theme kicks in: “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”!
As you might gather, the six Songs Without Words are akin to Mendelssohn’s in that they’re alternately saccharine (Nos. 1 and 2), and inspired (Nos. 3 through 6). Gounod also wrote a solo piano version of his (in)famous Ave Maria based on the first Prelude from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, where the pianist has to balance the vocal line and accompaniment in clear and effortless perspective. The Six Preludes and Fugues are basically academic studies, yet quite tuneful and unpretentious. The previously unrecorded Sonata for Piano Duet, however, is a minor masterpiece. Its first-movement Tarantella rivals Rossini for invention and wit. The Schubertian Adagio makes full use of the piano’s registers without ever sounding too thick, while the Presto Finale (sound clip) features dashing unison octave runs, surprising harmonic detours, and dramatic use of dynamics that foreshadow Gounod’s future prowess as a man of the theater.
Roberto Prosseda is no stranger to Gounod, having previously recorded the composer’s complete works for pedal piano and orchestra, which my colleague David Hurwitz praised highly. Needless to say, Prosseda’s masterful technique and innate idiomatic flair bring each and every piece to characterful life. And let’s not forget the marvelously attuned ensemble repartee and precision between Prosseda and Enrico Pompili in the Sonata. Decca’s resplendent engineering and Gounod biographer Gérard Condé’s informative booklet notes further seal my enthusiastic recommendation.
– ClassicsToday (Jed Distler) Read less
Works on This Recording
La Veneziana by Charles Gounod
Roberto Prosseda (Piano)
Be the first to review this title