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PETITE MESSE SOLENNELLE - Original Version for 12 Soloists (Passy,1863)


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Code: CVLD 297

Author: Gioachino Rossini
Performer: Giovanni Battista Rigon conductor
Duration: 79:20
Support: cd

English text

"Twelve singers of three genders, males, females and castrati will be enough for the performance. (…) A total of twelve cherubs".

This was what seventy one years old Gioachino Rossini wrote into the score of Petite Messe Solennelle, composed in Paris, on 1863, 30 years after the mysterious retiring from the Opera business.The musicians staff on stage is completed by two pianos and harmonium, as Rossini has tought of a performance for a small audience, inside the private chapel of the Pillet-Will Family, to whom the mess was dedicated.

Just the chamber-music dimension of this masterpiece is what we tried to recover during the performance recorded live at Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, using a group of young singers from Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello of Venezia, true talents, some of them just professional acting in many important Opera House. This performance was probably the first in Italy, absolutely the first in which all singers are soloists.

The Latin text of the Catholic Mass is sung as we go on from the entire ensemble (in the initial Kyrie and during the big fugues of Cum Sancto Spiritu and of Et vitam), sometimes using antiphonal interventions  of four soloists (Gloria e Sanctus), or using a fascinating single soloist (tenor in Domine Deus, bass on Quoniam or soprano on Crucifixus and Salutaris Hostia), or at last harmonizing two or three voices (Qui tollis, Gratias agimus tibi). It's present a pure instrumental interlude for solo piano (Prelude religieux for the Piano I), but the most brilliant opportunity of the entire Mass is reserved to the Rossini's beloved alto voice, who sings the final, moving, Agnus Dei, with chorus of the other soloists.

In 1867, a few years after the composition, Rossini orchestrated the accompaniment of his little mass (probably afraid that someone else could do it…) in a version for solo, chorus and orchestra: so, the famous "twelve cherubs" of the original version become dozens and dozens... In this way the music acquires a more monumental importance, but looses the freshness, the grace, the transparency and the whole undestatement, which shines through the autograph notes on the original score: "Twelve were the Apostles in the Leonardo's famous painting, La Cena and - who could imagine! - there is someone through your apostles who sings notes out of tune!, Oh Lord, be sure: I promise that there will be no Giuda at my dining table and that my Cherubs will sing correctly and with love, praise and glory to You and this little composition, which is, unfortunately, the last venial sin of my life"

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