Rossini: Messe Solennelle

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

WORKS: Messe Solennelle
PERFORMER: Margot Pares-Reyna (soprano), Ulla Sippola (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Dewald (tenor), Peter Lika (bass); Chorus Musicus Köln/Christoph Spering
There is no shortage of excellent recordings of the genial piece of late Rossini usually known as the ‘Petite’ messe solennelle, but this one is unusual in that it attempts, in Christoph Spering’s words, ‘to try to read the score the way the composer saw it’. This has led to a certain jerkiness of rhythm in a determination not to make everything sound like one great legato. There are only 12 singers in all, the four soloists joining in the choral parts as well, but they are not quite the 12 Rossini had in mind when he wrote that ‘12 singers and three sexes – men, women and castrati’ would suffice to perform his Mass. Also, for the harmonium (as well as the two pianos) stipulated by Rossini, this performance substitutes a harmonicorde which, since it has the characteristics of both piano and harmonium, does not produce the sound Rossini had in mind.


None of this would matter very much if the performance itself were more enjoyable. But the soloists are no more than acceptable, and at least one of the instrumentalists tends to thump somewhat. My preference is for the EMI version with four stylish soloists in Lucia Popp, Brigitte Fassbaender, Nicolai Gedda and Dimitri Kavrakos (currently out of the catalogue, but, one hopes, not for long). Charles Osborne