WORKS: Messa di Gloria; Preludio sinfonico; Crisantemi
PERFORMER: Antonello Palombi (tenor), Gunnar Lundberg (baritone); Hungarian Radio Choir, Hungarian Opera Orchestra/Pier Giorgio Morandi
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555304
Puccini himself might be disconcerted by the great popularity currently enjoyed by his youthful Mass (1880) – a student work, written when he was just 21. It demonstrates capable technical skills and genuine promise, containing several amiable passages (one of the most charming found a much more likely home as a pastiche madrigal in his first internationally successful opera, Manon Lescaut, in 1893). But its limitations, occasional gaucheries and lack of any true spiritual quality would surely have embarrassed the mature composer.
This highly musical account, managed simply and without affectation, undeniably presents the piece positively, with a good range of colours deployed by the Hungarian Opera Orchestra (excellent strings) and idiomatic as well as affectionate conducting from Pier Giorgio Morandi. Both soloists are very acceptable.
The Preludio sinfonico, an examination piece written two years later, is a Massenet-meets-Wagner kind of affair. The consequences are not as interesting as the genuinely Puccinian, melancholy memorial tribute composed in 1890 and called Chrysanthemums (the flowers are associated with mourning in Italy). Also drawn on in Manon Lescaut, it’s by far the best thing here, and receives a stylish performance. Rich sound. George Hall