Nottingham Bach Choir - Rossini Petite messe solennelle
16th June 2018 –
Gioachino Rossini's Petite messe solennelle (Little solemn mass) was written in 1863, possibly at the request of Count Alexis Pillet-Will for his wife Louise to whom it is dedicated. The composer, who had retired from composing operas more than 30 years before, described it as "the last of my péchés de vieillesse" (sins of old age).
The mass is structured in several extended movements in the tradition of the missa solemnis, but the composer labeled it petite with a grain of irony. He wrote on the last page of the manuscript:
"Dear Lord, here it is finished, this poor little mass. Have I just written sacred music, or rather, sacrilegious music? I was born for opera buffa, as you well know. Not much technique, a little bit of heart, that’s all. Blessings to you and grant me Paradise."
The unusual scoring for voices, two pianos and harmonium is in the Neapolitan harpsichord tradition of the 18th century. Rossini specified, on the second page of his manuscript, twelve singers in all, noting on the title page: "Twelve singers of three sexes, men, women and castrati will suffice for its execution: that is, eight for the choir, four soloists, in all twelve cherubim".
£16 (under 18s and registered full-time students £5).
Tickets are available from:
- Nottingham Tourism Centre, Smithy Row (Tel: 0844 4775678);
- By emailing the Nottingham Bach Choir Ticket Secretary;
- By PayPal through the Nottingham Bach Choir website;
- Or at the door
The extended work is a missa solemnis, but Rossini labeled it, not without irony, petite (little). He scored it originally for twelve singers, four of them soloists, two pianos and harmonium. The mass was first performed on 14 March 1864 at the couple's new home in Paris. Rossini later produced an orchestra version, including an additional movement, a setting of the hymn "O salutaris Hostia" as a soprano aria. This version of the mass was not performed during his lifetime because he could not obtain permission to perform it with female singers in a church. It was first performed three months after his death, at the Salle Ventadour in Paris by the company of the Théâtre-Italien on 24 February 1869.