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Rossini: Petite Messe Solenelle

  • 23 Oct 2022
  • 4:00 PM
  • Saint Luke Catholic Church


Rossini had written 40 operas by the time he was 37, the last of these being Wilhelm Tell.  At that point he did something unique in the history of art: He declared that he was through with writing operas and settled down in Paris to enjoy himself. Historians have puzzled over this strange behavior. Rossini’s own explanation was that he had a “passion for idleness.” It does not seem to have occurred to anyone that, since he had made quite a fortune, he could afford to do what only a handful of composers have ever been able to do! He certainly had a wonderful time being lionized, and he did write more music for his soirees – mostly songs and chamber pieces, which he called “sins of my old age.“ At the end of his life, however, he turned to religious texts and produced the Stabat Mater and lastly, the Messe Solenelle, called “petite” because it was written for a small group to perform in his living room: four soloists, eight professional singers for the chorus, two pianos and harmonium (a small parlor organ). It is an astonishing work, full of vitality, as one would expect, but also displaying a formidable command of counterpoint. The choral fugues in this work are fiercely difficult because there is always a slight difference whenever the voice parts return to what in Bach and Handel would be familiar. Rossini’s unbounded imagination and sense of fun are responsible for these surprises. It was characteristic that Rossini, who lived from 1792 to 1868, was born on February 29 (in a leap year).
We look forward to celebrating his 56th “birthday” in 2024!




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