Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle -

Cadogan Hall
From: 2015-06-30 Until: 2015-07-01
Start Time: 19:30pm

Title(s): Petite Messe Solennelle

Composer: Rossini:
Choir: Barts Choir
Orchestra: Chris Lee & friends
Conductor: Ivor Setterfield

Soprano: Susana Gaspar and Yvonne Howard (mezzo)
Tenor: Peter Kirk
Bass: Alexander Robin Baker

June 30th and July 1st

Book now for the best available seats

Welcome to an evening of exceptional choral music

Like a blue moon, Rossini's difficult-to-assemble 'Petite Messe Solennelle' seldom appears on the concert calendar, but its glorious elegance will be heard twice this the Cadogan Hall, near Sloane Square, on Tuesday 30th June and Wednesday 1st July.

Written for Parisian audiences in 1864, more than 30 years after the composer of 'The Barber of Seville' retired from opera, the Petite Messe will be performed by Barts Choir, London's largest professionally rehearsed choral society. Conducted by Ivor Setterfield, the concert will combine historical correctness with an exceptionally vibrant delivery.

"Rossini was trying to sum up everything his compositional arts stood for," said Matthew Glandorf, director of Choral Arts, Philadelphia, "It's got some of his best arias but the choral writing is sometimes in the style of Palestrina. And he shows that he can write a grand Handelian-style fugue. It's one of his most profound works."

Yet Rossini was a musical comedian, with a fundamental buoyance that never left him. Though grand in concept, the Mass was intended for such an intimate chapel or salon setting that Rossini himself took the role of page turner.

Barts' performance of Rossini's 'Petite Messe Solonelle' has something for everybody. It is a summer treat that must not be missed.

Rossini: composer of William Tell and Barber of Seville

Rossini's Petite Messe Solenelle is a piece of exceptional significance. Indeed, the work seems to be one of the first examples by which music began to establish its independence from conventional styles. Gioachino Antonio Rossini was born in 1792 to Giuseppe and Anna Rossini in Pesaro, a town off the Adriatic coast in Italy. Rossini was very much part of a family who indulged in music; his father served as the composer's first music teacher. Meanwhile, his mother, Anna appeared to take advantage of the increasing professional careers offered on the stage, and became a relatively successful singer. Richard Osbourne's commentary about Anna provides a little insight into the Rossini family. He describes her as being unable to read music, but possessing a good ear and excellent memory.[1]

The political affairs of Italy were turbulent during the later eighteenth century; Europe was still reeling from the French Revolution in 1789, and the Reign of Terror under Maximilien Robespierre during the early 1790s was very much contemporary to Rossini's upbringing. Furthermore, the commoner's apparent disillusionment with the old governmental systems of autocracy were brought in direct contact with Rossini during his early years, with Giuseppe Rossini being imprisoned for his republican sympathies in 1799. When you examine Giuseppe's investment in radical ideology in addition to Anna Rossini's lack of knowledge in musical theory, one can suggest that the Italian musician appears to be one of the first composers to introduce the reformed ideologies of the general populace into the musical world.

Rossini's preface to his Petite Messe Solenelle in 1863 is testament to the unconventional approach that was employed in his music. Far from the religious focus that had characterised works such as Handel's Messiah, Rossini is known for questioning the very nature of his piece as 'music of the devil'.[2] Certainly, Osbourne argues that Rossini was far from a religious man; he refers to the testimony of close friend and cellist Gebano Braga, who remarked that Rossini was seen as a 'joker' and a 'cynic'. The somewhat unorthodox approach adopted by Rossini appears to be further emphasised by his inclusion of sopranos and altos in his work. At the time, papal law decreed that the voices of women were not to be used in churches. Subsequently, the piece was conceived by the Italian composer as one to be performed in the chapel of the newly constructed house belonging to the Count and Countess Pillet-Will. This can be seen as significant, for the opposing nature of Rossini's piece to papal law provides a somewhat more sardonic approach employed by the Italian artist, in what can be seen as further support of Braga's comments on his friend's sllghtly cynical nature.

It is clear that critics have acknowledged the significance of Rossini's work. Barry Creasy states that this piece – characterised by its wit, parody, grace and sentiment – influenced a new generation of French composers, of which Saint Saens and Chabrier were notable examples. But one is not to assume that Rossini promoted a completely new approach to the art of music. Indeed, Osbourne notes that Rossini employed a 'courtly' style in his work; a characteristic that seemed to be a thing of the past. While not being as prolific as the involvement of George III in Handel's Messiah, it can certainly be suggested that Rossini enjoyed some patronage and approval, with his perception to perform the piece in the establishment of the Pillet-Will family being testament of 'courtly' approval on a somewhat smaller scale. Furthermore, such investment can be seen as significant, for it seems that members of the upper class began to sympathise with the new perspectives that had been represented by the political and ideological turmoil seen in Europe during the fall of the eighteenth century.

As has been mentioned by Creasy, the piece appeared to present new characteristics such as wit and parody. Such characteristics were very much at odds with the religious veneration that seemed so apparent within earlier works. By coming to our performance, you will experience this transition from its core, in what can be considered as the first foundations of a new attitude that had begun to grip the musical world by storm. Demand an encore!

Edward Rendall: Choir Member since 2011

[1] R. Osbourne, Rossini, (New York, 1986).

[2] R. Osbourne, Rossini,pp. 157.

Cadogan Hall

5 Sloane Terrace, London, England, SW1X 9DQ

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