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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Petite Messe Solennelle (1863) [79.00]
Martina Musacchio (soprano); Claudia Bandera (alto); Guillermo Dominguez (tenor); Johannes Mannov (bass); Ulrich Joella (piano); Nigel Clayton (piano); Peter Solomon (harmonium)
Basel Madrigal Choir/Fritz Näf
rec. Freiburger Musik Forum D-79104 1993
ALTO ALC1121 [79:00]

Experience Classicsonline

Rossini wrote his Petite messe solennelle as chamber music; a chorus of eight singers, four soloists plus two pianos and harmonium. It was intended for performance in a private chapel. The soloists were distinguished operatic singers, including the Marchiso sisters, with the eight chorus members drawn from the Paris Conservatoire. It is worth bearing this in mind because the work has nowadays come to be seen as a choral piece rather than one written for vocal ensemble.

One of the classic recordings is that directed from the piano by Wolfgang Sawallisch with soloists including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. This is one of those recordings which crops up in reviews, only for the reviewer to lament that the recording is unavailable. It still is, and if you happen to come across it, snap it up.

On this disc the Mass is performed by the Basel Madrigal Choir under the direction Fritz Näf, in a recording originally released in 1993. The choir produce a nicely focused and balanced sound with some quite beautifully detailed singing, though at thirty voices they number rather more than the eight envisaged by Rossini. If you want it sung by a choir then this would seem a recommendation. Unfortunately the solo contributions are not on the same level. The work has a significant amount of solo material and the soloists matter as much as the choir.

Martina Musacchio, Claudia Bandera, Guillermo Dominguez and Johannes Mannov are creditable, and in a live performance would be quite acceptable. But unfortunately I would not want to listen to them regularly, the competition on other discs is just too great. Dominguez just doesn't have the vocal sophistication necessary to bring off Domine Deus - raw power simply isn't enough. And Claudia Bandera’s alto is too blowsy in its upper registers for my taste. Martina Musacchio and Johannes Mannov are quite acceptable, but don’t really match up to the soloists on other discs.

If you are interested in a good choral performance of this work, then you can't go far wrong with that from the CBSO Chorus, and if you are interested in a vocal ensemble then do try Robert King and the Kings Consort on Hyperion, a recording which also has the advantage of using period instrumental forces.

Though there are some moments of fine choral singing on the disc, they are rather let down by the solo singing.

Robert Hugill