Jürgen Budday

Puccini: Messa di Gloria

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AllMusic Review by

The series of recordings made at the Maulbronn Monastery in southwestern Germany, released on the K&K label, has focused mostly on church music that might have been suitable both to the space and to the performing styles of the local musicians involved. Neither condition holds in the case of Messa di Gloria, a work by the young Puccini that stands right on the boundary between the church music of his ancestors and the operatic art to which he would devote himself. Long considered a kind of curiosity, it was published only in the 1950s and was rarely performed. Its spiky lurching from operatic melody to academic counterpoint seems more sympathetic today, however, and the work has been programmed by choirs great and small. It demands singers and players immersed in Italian idioms, however, and that doesn't quite happen with the Kantorei Maulbronn (a choir that sounds great in Haydn) and an ensemble of players from the Southwest German Radio Orchestra. The choir has trouble intonationally, especially the sopranos when Puccini's lines begin to soar. The orchestra is far from sparkling and has a certain stolidity that is deathly in Puccini's music. The two soloists, tenor Willi Stein and baritone Thomas Pfeiffer, are idiomatic, but the monastery is not a good site for Puccini; it boxes the sound in and the text is not consistently intelligible. Better to go elsewhere, both for those in search of the young Puccini's mass and for those intrigued by K&K's series.

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