Rossini: Sacred music

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COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Studio
WORKS: Sacred music
PERFORMER: Prague Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra/Edoardo Brizio
CATALOGUE NO: SM 12 23 27 DDD (distr Discovery)
These three well-stocked discs constitute a veritable treasure trove for lovers of Rossini, for they contain not only all of the composer’s sacred music, except for the Stabat mater and the Petite messe solennelle, both of which are already well known and often recorded, but also a bonus in the form of Giovanna d’Arco, a cantata for soprano and piano on the subject of Joan of Arc.

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Apart from a Tantum ergo composed in Rossini’s middle-age, these sacred pieces all date from his student days. The earliest, a Kyrie which he wrote at the age of 16, is almost Mozartian in its maturity, style and depth of feeling; indeed it would not sound out of place in Mozart’s Requiem. It and the two following pieces on the first disc, a Credo and a Gloria, may all be movements of the same Mass, in which case only two movements remain to be found – perhaps in a library in Pesaro, Bologna or Milan.

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The contents include the only two extant movements, both absolutely beautiful, of a Rimini Mass, a ‘Quoniam’ which takes the form of a virtuoso operatic scena for bass and orchestra, and several other pieces, all replete with Rossini’s unique charm and melodic prodigality. The Czech soloists, chorus and orchestra are excellent. Charles Osborne