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Tricky work

A recording of Rossini's
Petite Messe solennelle -
reviewed by

'... a stunning choral sound ...'

Rossini: Petite Messe solennelle. © 2001 harmonia mundi sa

Choirs can often lose sight of the fact that Rossini's Petite Messe solennelle is a chamber work; Rossini suggested it be performed with a group of just twelve singers plus two pianos and harmonium. It is, of course, perfectly acceptable to expand on this number, particularly when giving the work in concert, especially with an amateur choir. But on this disc the RIAS-Kammerchor, a professional choir, performs the work with a thirty seven strong choral group. There is no doubt that they make a stunning choral sound, clean and focused [listen -- track 1, 0:36-1:46]; completely unphased by the demands of Rossini's substantial choral movements.

The work was written for the dedication of the private chapel of the Parisian nobleman Count Michel Frederic Pillet-Will -- hence the necessity for the reduced forces. Rossini did, later, reluctantly agree to demands for an orchestral version and this larger scale sibling has affected the chamber version in a number of ways. Not only do ensembles (both choir and soloists) perform the chamber version as if it was the orchestral version, but for many years the piano accompaniment was based quite heavily on the orchestral version. Thankfully, there is now a good edition of the music for the original version of the work with the accompaniment of two pianos and harmonium based on what Rossini originally wrote.

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Copyright © 26 December 2003 Robert Hugill, London UK


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