Mascagni wrote his biggest success, the opera Cavalleria
, when he was working in the town of Cerignola. A few months
earlier he had started on a Messa di Gloria
which went through
several versions before its completion in the form recorded here. Listeners
who may fear that the result will be uncharacteristic or immature can be
reassured as soon as they hear the opening Kyrie
, which has much
that will remind them of that opera in detail as well as general manner.
Other reminders come later, although it would be an exaggeration to describe
them as quotations. Rather they suggest that these were the raw materials
that came to the composer's hand at that time.
Like the Messa di Gloria
of Puccini and Bellini, and arguably
even that by Rossini, this is not one of the composer's great masterpieces
but is nonetheless wholly characteristic of the composer and will therefore
have an attraction to those particularly drawn to their music. It inhabits
the same sound-world as Cavalleria Rusticana
; the orchestral
for instance could easily take the place of the more
of the former, and the general tunefulness
and grateful vocal writing have much in common with the opera. Admittedly
the Mass contains a few humdrum moments and lacks memorable melodies, apart
perhaps from the Agnus Dei
, but it is worth hearing if you are
attracted to the composer.
The performers do all they can to help the music; a good thing as there do
not appear to be any rival versions. The recording is adequate rather than
spectacular but does not get in the way of the music. It has been an
unexpected pleasure to get to know this work, and I can imagine it as a very
desirable Christmas present for the opera enthusiast who thinks they have
recordings of everything.