Petite Messe solennelle
GIOACHINO ROSSINI • Petite Messe solennelle for four solo voices, chorus, 2 pianos and reed organ (1863)
End of concert approx. 06:35 p.m.
Print programme (PDF)
Rossini composed his Petite Messe solennelle when he was 71 and wrote on the title page, “unfortunately the last mortal sin in old age”. Even in the title the brilliant mocker is clearly recognizable, as he was making fun specifically of the bombastic Grande Messe solennelle, so popular at the time. His work is scored for four soloists, chamber choir, two pianos and harmonium, thus much reduced in comparison with the monumental masses of Bruckner or Liszt, for instance. And as already in Rossini’s Stabat mater the classical style and new style merge to create something very individual which prompted Meyerbeer – moved to tears at the first performance – to write an effusive letter to “the Jupiter Rossini” commenting on “this new aspect of your immortal genius”. Verdi, on the other hand, advised Rossini to forget this music and instead to write another Barbiere. Nevertheless, so as to take the wind out of the sails of the inevitable critics right from the beginning, Rossini made a personal apology to God on the last page of the score, “Is it really sacred music (musique sacrée) that I have written here, or is it damned music (sacrée musique) after all. As You well know, I was created for comic opera.” On the advice of friends Rossini created an orchestrated version, before “Mr Sax and his saxophones, or Mr Berlioz with other giants of the modern orchestra come”, but the original instrumentation matches far better the spirit of this score, in which Rossini revived the Neapolitan harpsichord tradition of the 18th century.