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Rossini: Petite messe solennelle

Coro Ghislieri; Cristiano Gaudio, Francesco Corti (piano), Deniel Perer (harmonium)/Giulio Prandi et al (Arcana)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Petite messe solennelle
Sandrine Piau (soprano), Josè Maria Lo Monaco (mezzo-soprano), Edgardo Rocha (tenor), Christian Senn (bass); Coro Ghislieri; Cristiano Gaudio, Francesco Corti (piano), Deniel Perer (harmonium)/Giulio Prandi
Arcana A494   86:46 mins


Usually heard in its orchestrated guise, the last of Rossini’s ‘sins of old age’ is transformed in this original scoring for two pianos and a harmonium with chamber choir and soloists. It takes time to relax into this soundworld of historic instruments: an 1838 Érard, 1856 Pleyel and 1890 harmonium. The transparent sound of the former is nicely balanced by the penetrating, sustained timbre of the latter. It’s Romanticism, but the choir sounds austerely Baroque.

Alongside their impressive dynamic range, Coro Ghislieri bring Rossini’s fugal passages to life. Some moments are revelatory; the ‘Gloria – Qui Tollis’ opens like a Lied, with its guileless accompaniment. ‘O salutaris’ is an extended song, exquisitely sung by Sandrine Piau. The harmonically adventurous ‘Prélude religieux pendant l’offertoire’ is otherworldly and mesmerising on the Érard.

Most impressive is the approach to recording; there is no bombast, but a close-miked evocation of a private space populated by individual voices. The soloists don’t blend seamlessly, furthering the sense of a domestic performance. The small forces enable the rhythmic flexibility of chamber music. As a whole, though, it falls between the cracks. The soloists sound great but are very well behaved. The restrained, non-vibrato choral sound needs more musical richness than the mass offers. It’s a fascinating approach, but the dramatic force which drives Rossini’s music feels underpowered.


Natasha Loges