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Rossini: Petite Messe solennelle

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 26, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

Part mass, part cantata, Rossini's Petite messe solennelle was the most substantial work of his final years. It is a beautiful and elegant piece which movingly expresses the composer's
hopes and joys and the fear of his own mortality. 'Petite' refers to the scale of the piece: there is no large symphony orchestra or large chorus here, as in Stabat Mater. In its place are 12 voices (including four soloists), two pianos and a harmonium. This performance of the Petite Messe solennelle, recorded in 1983, features four major soloists
who are also international opera stars: Italian soprano Katia Ricciarelli and Spanish tenor José Carreras, both experienced performers of Rossini on stage and on record, the mezzosoprano Margarita Zimmermann and the American bass Samuel Ramey. The two pianists on this recording are Craig Sheppard and Paul Berkowitz, and the harmonium is played by Richard Nunn. They are joined by the Ambrosian Singers and the conductor is Claudio Scimone. The 2-CD set also features a performance of the aria 'Dal tuo stellato soglio' from Rossini's Mosè in Egitto, featuring two other legendary artists: the soprano June Anderson and the bass Ruggero Raimondi.

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Petite messe solennelle, for soloists, 2 pianos, harmonium & choir: 1. Kyrie
  2. Petite messe solennelle, for soloists, 2 pianos, harmonium & choir: 2. Gloria

Disc: 2

  1. Petite messe solennelle, for soloists, 2 pianos, harmonium & choir: 3. Credo
  2. Petite messe solennelle, for soloists, 2 pianos, harmonium & choir: 4. Prélude religieux pendant l'Offertoire
  3. Petite messe solennelle, for soloists, 2 pianos, harmonium & choir: 5. Ritournelle pour le Sanctus - Sanctus
  4. Petite messe solennelle, for soloists, 2 pianos, harmonium & choir: 6. O salutaris hostia
  5. Petite messe solennelle, for soloists, 2 pianos, harmonium & choir: 7. Agnus Dei
  6. Mosè in Egitto, opera: Act 3. Preghiera. Dal tuo stellato soglio


Product Details

  • Orchestra: Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Conductor: Scimone
  • Composer: Rossini
  • Audio CD (April 26, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Newton Classics
  • ASIN: B004P96WEA
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #664,090 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Ralph Moore TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 26, 2011
"Good God--behold completed this poor little Mass--is it indeed? You know well, I was born for comic opera. Little science, a little heart, that is all. So may you be blessed, and grant me Paradise!"
(Rossini, Passy, 1863)

Thus Rossini dedicated to posterity his Petite messe solennelle - "the last", as he called it, "of my péchés de vieillesse"; it has excited debate ever since regarding its sincerity or otherwise as liturgical music. Composed as a commission for the dedication of a private chapel, Rossini was free of the Church's interdiction upon female voices and able to write for his favourite soloists, the sisters Carlotta and Barbara Marchisio. Although this could have opened the door to the operatic exuberance characteristic of Verdi's Requiem, Rossini in fact writes in an extraordinarily restrained and elegant vein, avoiding all excess. The mournful mood throughout is effected by Rossini's preference for minor keys.

The original scoring - Rossini made an orchestral arrangement shortly before his death to prevent the inevitable being performed by a lesser hand - relies merely upon two pianos (the second barely necessarily and often omitted in performance and recording but present here), a harmonium, a small choir of eight and four solo singers ( to represent the twelve apostles). However, those four singers - shades of Il trovatore here - need to be absolutely superb.
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Rossini was reputed to have boasted: "Give me a shopping list and I'll set it to music". Not an empty claim when one considers the 40 some operas he bequeathed to the world. Despite this uncommon facility with composing for voice, Rossini felt sufficient humility to plead for divine recompense upon completion of one of his last major works, the Petite Messe Solennelle of 1863. The original scoring (utilized in this recording) consists of 2 pianos, harmonium, 4 solo singers and choir. Claudio Scimone leads a distinguished contingent which includes Katia Ricciarelli, Margarita Zimmerman, Jose Carreras, Samuel Ramey and the Ambrosian Singers of England. Overall the performance is a good one given the fleeting intonation issues and occasional straining by some of the soloists. Some listeners may take exception to Scimone's brisk tempi, by no means a disqualifier. The recording, originally released by Philips in 1984, is all one has come to expect from this source: warm, resonant, details nicely etched. There is serious competition. Nevertheless it's good to have this solid version back in circulation. As a suitable bonus, Newton Classics has included "Preghiera" drawn from Scimone's complete 1981 Decca recording of Moses in Egypt.
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