Rossini: Petite messe solennelle; Stabat mater

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COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Erato Ultima
WORKS: Petite messe solennelle; Stabat mater
PERFORMER: Cecilia Gasdia (soprano), Margarita Zimmerman (mezzo-soprano), Bernarda Fink (contralto), Vincenzo La Scola, Chris Merritt (tenor), Francesco Ellero D’Artegna, José Garcia (bass); Ambrosian Singers, I Solisti Veneti/Michel Corboz, Claudio Scimone
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-28173-2 Reissue (1987)
There’s a certain irony – and one that Rossini would have appreciated – in the fact that the Italian soloists on the Naxos version of the Stabat mater are easily outclassed by a quartet emanating from Bulgaria, Germany, America and Poland on Harmonia Mundi. Not only do their voices sound in better shape, but they are far more precise in delivering the notes exactly as written. In Claudio Scimone’s 1987 performance on Erato, some sort of halfway house is achieved, with substantial voices managing a high degree of style.

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This issue also includes an account of the Petite messe solennelle in its original scoring for two pianos and harmonium under the baton of Michel Corboz. Unfortunately the pianism is perfunctory, the harmonium so recessed as to make little impression and the overall sound picture lacking in breadth.

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The Naxos sound, on the other hand, is wildly over-reverberant, making a mush of Rossini’s thrilling final chorus. Marcus Creed favours period instruments and a chamber choir, and with sound that is lucid and spacious the results are highly appealing. This, then, is the clear winner, with those seeking a Petite messe advised to look elsewhere. George Hall