Puccini: Messa di Gloria; Crisantemi; Preludio sinfonico

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COMPOSERS: Puccini
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Messa di Gloria; Crisantemi; Preludio sinfonico
PERFORMER: Roberto Alagna (tenor), Thomas Hampson (baritone); LSO & Chorus/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57159 2
Student works by Puccini that show promise but little in the way of original genius. The Preludio sinfonico (1882) was written as an examination piece for the Milan Conservatory. Puccini had clearly been listening to Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, with perhaps some Gounod for variety. It’s delicately scored but forgettable.

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The so-called Messa di Gloria (Puccini labelled it simply ‘Mass for four voices with orchestra’) gets quite a few choral society outings these days, though arguably more on account of the brand recognition of its composer’s name than for its intrinsic merits. Nevertheless there’s some astute writing from the 22-year-old Puccini, who was following family tradition in producing religious music for his fellow citizens of Lucca, as well as some banal ideas among the good and a distinct lack of spirituality. The Agnus Dei ended up in Manon Lescaut 13 years later, and sounds a good deal more convincing as a pastiche madrigal in the opera.

Altogether finer is Crisantemi, a short memorial piece for strings, which was also drawn on for Manon’s death scene.

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Sensitive choral work, beautiful playing from the LSO and stylish conducting from Pappano, though Alagna sounds a touch effortful in his tenor solos. George Hall