A Fish Out of Water

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's Trout Week at WQXR, and the chamber music celebration continues on the Choral Mix. This week Kent Tritle presents a variety of large works for small ensembles, including Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle (Petite Solemn Mass), a prime example of this concept.

Composed in 1863, Rossini prefaced his Mass with a witty note to "le bon Dieu" (the good God) saying: "Behold completed this poor little Mass—is it indeed sacred music [la musique sacrée] that I have just written, or merely some damned music [la sacré musique]? You know well, I was born for comic opera. Little science, a little heart, that is all. So may you be blessed, and grant me Paradise!"

The Kyrie and Et Resurrexit aren't exactly "solemn" as the facetious Rossini specifies in the work's title. The lyrical and sustained vocal writing is often accompanied by an active accompaniment in the pianos and harmonium, creating much energy and tension within the work. In addition to lacking solemnity, Rossini's Mass isn't particularly "petite" in its length either, but does require a rather small ensemble. While most Mass settings usually require a full orchestra and chorus, Petite Messe Solennelle is scored for only 12 singers, two pianos and harmonium. Like most chamber works, the Mass received its premiere in a small venue, the private chapel of dedicatee Countess Louise Pillet-Will. 

Chamber music by Brahms, Monteverdi, Andrew Smith, and appropriately, Schubert's song "The Trout" are also featured on the show.


Die Forelle
Hudson Shad  

Songs for Male Chorus

Robert Shaw Chamber Singers
Robert Shaw, conductor

Kyrie and Et resurrexit from Petite Messe Solennelle

London Chamber Choir
Laszlo Heltay, conductor

Non voglio amare  
Ah che non si conviene       
Lamento della ninfa/Amor dov'e la fe
Gwen Toth, conductor

O Flos Regalis and Flos Regalis
Andrew Smith & Anonymous
New York Polyphony

Processional Hymn: O Gloriosi and Conductus: Ave Maria Gratia Plena

Anonymous (medieval)
Anonymous Four

Quartets for Four Solo Voices and Piano

New York Vocal Arts Ensemble
Raymond Beegle, conductor

Comments [5]

Michael Meltzer

As for chamber choirs, I can't recall ever having more sheer fun as an amateur singer than singing those same Brahms choral songs with the Canby Singers under the baton of the late Ed Canby.

Apr. 04 2011 12:01 AM
M. Juettner from Manhatten

Favorite chamber choirs: I have to admit that I have a home bias, but the RIAS chamber choir from Berlin and the SWR Vokalensemble (from the south western radio station in Germany) are really excellent, e.g., the Schuetz motets under Marcus Creed.

Apr. 03 2011 11:37 PM
Michael Meltzer

B. Reissman has picked a winner.
If Gwen Toth is not on everyone's short list of fine choral conductors, it is only because as producer/director of Baroque opera and founder of an early music group, she has been defying classification for years. I sang in a Haydn Mass of hers a few years back, and she is a choral conductor superb!

Apr. 03 2011 01:46 PM
Gary Ekman from Manhattan NYC

The pure, clear voices of New York Polyphony and Anonymous Four on a Sunday morning -- heavenly.

A film that slipped in and out of New York almost unnoticed last month is "Of Gods and Men" -- about monks in the mountains of Algeria who were caught up in the insurgency in the 90's. They devoted 4 hours of each day to singing and chanting prayers. The actors playing the monks said that they wanted to learn the songs themselves and not have them dubbed. The cinematic result is stunning. I never really understood the role that chanting and singing play in the daily lives of monks until I saw this movie.

Apr. 03 2011 09:20 AM
B. Reissman from Manhattan

FOR CHORAL MIX:You asked (4/3/11) favorite chamber music group. ARTEK! They had a superb concert last night--I kept thinking of Kent Tritle and wished he could have heard it. Called "3 Ladies of ARTEK" music of Rossi, Carissimi, Stradella and a hysterical song by Giramo. Since he said today that G. Toth is a friend of his, maybe he could somehow hear this very exquisite, first-rate program. The instrumentalists were also
really wonderful (theorbo, guitar, viola da gamba, harp, harpsichord).

Apr. 03 2011 08:16 AM

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