Antonio Pappano

Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

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Gioacchino Rossini's Petite messe solennelle was composed in 1863 and orchestrated by the composer before his death so that no one else would do it. Premiered publicly after his death, it drew the comment (supposedly from Napoleon III) that it was neither small, nor solemn, not really liturgical. The work indeed benefits from historical performance practice, including the revival of the original version for eight singers, two pianos, and a harmonium, which really challenges the singers to fit their agility demanding lines into a chamber context. What's here is a performance that is indeed not small, a full-size rendering by traditional Italian forces mostly associated with opera: conductor Antonio Pappano, the Orchestra and Chorus of the National Academy of Saint Cecilia, and a quartet of soloists who are equal to the music's demands. For many buyers the chief attraction of this release will be the presence of alto Sara Mingardo, who during the period preceding the album was active mostly in the field of Baroque music. But Pappano's driving, thick-boned reading of the music, especially effective in the big contrapuntal choruses, and the sound, in the musicians' own auditorium, sorts out the big masses of sound very well. An excellent specimen of the sort of performance people go to Italy to hear, from musicians who've been doing it since childhood.

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