Petite Messe Solennelle
Giacomo Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle (original version from 1863)
A rare opportunity to experience the great opera composer Giacomo Rossini’s beautiful mass performed by an extanded Edvard Grieg Choir, the internationally renowned pianists Chistian Ihle Hadland and Håvard Gimse and cathedral organist Sigurd Melvær Øgaard at the harmonium.
“No composer in the first half of the 19th century enjoyed the measure of prestige, wealth, popular acclaim or artistic influence that belonged to Rossini. His contemporaries recognized him as the greatest Italian composer of his time.” His last opera, Wilhelm Tell, was written in Paris in 1829 when Rossini was 37 years old.
Hearing was not the only sense he was interested in, taste and smell were also important. For the rest of his life he was most interested in food, and it took a full 34 years before he composed Petite Messe Solennelle, one of “the last of my péchés de vieillesse” (sins of old age) as he himself said.
Rossini had the world on a string. He wrote 40 operas (often three per year) by the time he was 40, and then suddenly retired. He later settled in a posh villa outside Paris, threw dinner parties and philosophized on music and food: “I know of no more admirable occupation than eating, that is really eating. Appetite is for the stomach what love is for the heart. The stomach is the conductor, who rules the grand orchestra of our passions, and rouses it to action. The bassoon or the piccolo, grumbling its discontent or shrilling its longing, personify the empty stomach for me. The stomach, replete, on the other hand, is the triangle of enjoyment or the kettledrum of joy. As for love, I regard her as the prima donna par excellence, the goddess who sings cavatinas to the brain, intoxicates the ear, and delights the heart. Eating, loving, singing and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like the bubbles of a bottle of champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool.”
The mass, which was composed after his culinary rapture, is written for sixteen voices, piano and harmonium, and is dramatic, intense and full of pathos. It was just as suitable for Paris’ salons as for the church.
Edvard Grieg Kor
Edward Gardner, conductor
Christian Ihle-Hadland, piano
Håvard Gimse, piano
Sigurd Melvær Øgaard, harmonium