ROSSINI Petite Messe Solennnelle (1863)
Writing today, Rossini might have run up against the Trade Descriptions Act, for what appears more like a Grande Messe Joyeuse. However we should allow for Rossini's wry humour and recall that the first performance was given by just 12 singers and the spare accompaniment of pianos and harmonium. But who's complaining? This was Rossini's last major work, and he could look back with satisfaction on a huge list of operatic successes in the 1810s and 1820s. His first major foray into sacred music was his Stabat Mater of 1832, which has attracted some criticism for some rather jaunty operatic moments. But in this work, while we can recognise the fluency and polish of a great operatic master, we also see an intensity and awe which makes it so compelling. Rossini later orchestrated it, but this version never caught on, and we use the original piano and harmonium accompaniment which suits it so well. It's a wonderful sing!