Monday, 22 June 2009

Liturgical Music?


Just when you could be excused for thinking the members of the Women's Guild dead (or worse!), here's another musical interlude: Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle (1863). However, despite its name the mass is far from 'petite' and not particularly 'solennelle' as it was written not for use in the liturgy, but for the salon of a Parisien town house. The more pernickety amongst you might also question its status as a 'messe' as it's just so long as to be totally un-liturgical. I've yet to meet the priest with the patience to stand through a thirty-one minute Gloria or sixteen minute Creed, though I may well be wrong. Answers on a postcard (or modern equivalent).

The piece was originally scored for two pianos, harmonium and twelve singers and Rossini himself described the setting as the last of his 'pêchés de vieillesse' (sins of old age). Some movements are entirely ridiculous. The tenor soloist bouncing along to the words 'Domine Deus' is one of the more ludicrous moments. This version is sung by the 'Prince of Tenors', Franco Corelli:




And, just when you thought the piece had reached new heights of utter bonkersness, there is a lengthy harmonium solo between the Benedictus and the O Salutaris Hostia! Yet, in spite of my mockery, the Messe Solennelle has for me some truly uplifting moments and is exciting and dramatic, and possesses a real sense of the holiness. The Sanctus and Benedictus are, for example, very beautiful and moving at times:



So, all you experimental liturgists out there: why not use the 'O Salutaris' for your next Benediction? Delight your congregation with all or some of this 'little' mass setting. You know you want to...!

1 comment:

  1. This is most certainly a non-sequitur from the topic at hand but let me start by saying that I am delighted to have found this blog and look forward to future posts with great interest.
    I currently live in the US but I am moving to London in the autumn to take up a place at a graduate program. I wonder whether you could recommend any Anglo-Catholic parishes in London that have more emphasis on social justice than on smells and bells - not that I don't enjoy the smells and bells. I have been at an Anglo-Catholic parish for years that is engaged in social justice and attended, whilst out of town, several Anglo-Catholic churches that were decidely more worried (on the whole - I make no judgement of the individual parish members) about the amount and quality of lace on the cottas.
    Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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