Rossini: Petite messe solennelle

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Opus 111 Invitation
WORKS: Petite messe solennelle
PERFORMER: Margot Pares-Reyna (soprano), Ulla Sippola (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Dewald (tenor), Peter Lika (bass); Chorus Musicus/Christopher Spering
CATALOGUE NO: OPS 10-015 Reissue (1994)
Christoph Spering’s doggedly experimental approach to early and mid-l9th-century repertoire has a freshness all its own. Here he seeks to restore Rossini’s late masterpiece (a substantial work lasting some 80 minutes) to the spirit of the composer’s original intentions. The mass is frequently heard with ample chorus and orchestra, but the original concept was a small ensemble (twelve including soloists), with accompaniment of piano and harmonium (or, as here, a ‘harmonicorde’), generating a wholly different kind of clarity, focus and refined expressive power.

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Spering’s performance is joyously rumbustious and rhythmically inspired. But conversely, he succeeds in catching the kind of intimacy he aspires to – the solos raw yet charming, the choir spirited, and the keyboard playing magnificent. EMI (with the Labeque sisters and King’s College, Cambridge) and Conifer also offer striking keyboard versions; while those preferring orchestra will relish Chailly on mid-price Decca. But Spering’s colourful reading enjoys a unique, memorable vitality. Roderic Dunnett