“Dear God: here it is finished, this poor little Mass… I was born for opera buffa, you know it well! A little science, some heart, that’s all…”
- composer’s envoi to “Petite Messe Solennelle“.
Cover of Gioacchino Rossini
Rossini is generally perceived as an operatic composer, and thus, his sacred works are sometimes perceived as lacking in the light of other pieces in a similar vein. Some have also remarked that Rossini’s sacral works are simple continuations of the traditions he created during his compositional career. In many ways, it is so, as the presented two works show. But, like in most cases with Rossini and belcanto, the pieces never lose a certain irresistible charm and beauty.
In this new series of uploads I am pairing up two completely different but, nonetheless, both surprisingly refreshing masses by Rossini: an early, even a bit immature work, “Messa di Milano”, and a later, more elaborate piece, “Messa di Gloria” (which comes from the 1820s). My goals fall into to two categories: first off, to present the selections that I have chosen for posting and to provide some short ideas on the works; and, secondly, as the pieces, like most masses, follows the same basic structure and share the same text, to compare them.
Rossini’s “Messa di Gloria” was performed in the Church of San Ferdinando, Naples, in March 1820. Only one page of the original manuscript exists (in Brussels), but a complete set of parts lies in Naples Conservatory. Rossini seems to have been “helped” by another hand in the contrapuntal sections and that the final section, “Cum sancto spiritu”, was composed by Pietro Raimondi. The mass, Rossini’s only work written during the period he wrote for the theatre and the first sacred work of his maturity, is generally wondrous, though almost too operatic. Indeed, the whole thing takes some getting used to because a lot of Rossinian fingerprints one is used to hearing emerge from the opera pit here turn up in a liturgical context.
I’m only uploading several selections, including the complete Kyrie, Gratias, the Domine Deus (both set as terzets) etc., which I consider rewarding in some way or another. I’m providing the whole structure of the piece to give you a basic idea of the way Rossini set up the classical Mass succession, while the presented pieces are marked by a “*”.
Sumi Jo – soprano,
Ann Murray – contralto,
Raul Gimenez & Francisco Araiza – tenors,
Samuel Ramey – bass.
1. Kyrie (*; chorus). Another sustained opening for chorus, contrasted with ominous horns and nervous strings.
2. Christe (*; duettino for the tenors). A superb, if unusual for a sacred work, passage, beautifully joining together the tenors’ vocalizing over a simple dotted bass line.
3. Kyrie (repeat of the opening). As this piece is a complete repeat of the original opening, I decided that it would be possible to skip it in this posting.
4. Gloria (chorus and quartet for all, except one tenor).
5. Laudamus (aria for soprano).
6. Gratias (aria for tenor).
7. Domine Deus (terzet for soprano, contralto and bass).
8. Qui tollis (aria for tenor and chorus).
9. Quoniam (aria for bass).
10. Cum sancto spiritu (chorus).