> PUCCINI Messa di Gloria 8555304 [RDB]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Messa di Gloria; Preludio Sinfonico; Crisantemi

Hungarian Opera Orchestra and Radio Choir/Giorgio Morandi; Anotello Palombe (tenor); Gunnar Lundberg (baritone)
Recorded at the Phoenix Studio, July 2000.
NAXOS 8.555304 [59.40]


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A complaint occasionally voiced about Puccini’s Mass is that it is too "operatic". So what? Many of the most admired sacred works of the early baroque period are operatic: Monteverdi and Cavalli were shining examples of how great composers can serve two masters, the church and opera, equally well. Whether the young Puccini had then mastered the necessary skills for doing so is, however, open to question. The Messa di Gloria was completed in 1880 while he was still a student, but did not come to light again until 1950. It has all the suave melodic qualities of Puccini’s stage works, and receives a committed performance on this disc.

Puccini constantly underlays the texts with colourful orchestral writing, and in a few places the choir is all but upstaged by instrumental passages. The effect, though often impressive, is strangely uneven, as though the composer has casually drawn on secular sources for a sacred work. The Gloria has an unexpectedly dancing step. The four-part choral singing is accomplished throughout, but the high tessitura of Gratias animus tibi does Palombi’s voice no favours. The Mass is full of jolly tunes (including one in a decidedly waltz-like tempo) and clearly this is the work of a young composer determined to sweep away the cobwebs from conventional liturgical settings. The gentle Kyrie and Benedictus are, perhaps, the most overtly devotional sections, and Lundberg’s fine bass makes an impressive contribution to the latter. Considering the inspired way Puccini uses the soprano voice in his operas it is surprising that he did not find a place for it in the Mass.

After the Mass the two purely orchestral pieces on this disc, Preludio Sinfonico and Crisantemi (chrysanthemums), sound like makeweights. The former is short at 9:52, and gives the impression of an intermezzo looking for an opera. The latter, a brief elegy for Amedio de Savoy, Duke of Aosta, has a genuinely felt poignancy in contrast to the sketchy treatment of the Prelude. Recording quality is high, using 30-bit technology to improve definition and sound reproduction.

Roy D.Brewer


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