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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rossini's Hot Messe

Rossini was pretty much a rock star. His Petite Messe Solennelle - which, by the way, is being performed by the Chamber Singers, Katya Kramer, Amanda Hobson and Brian Clark TONIGHT at 7:30pm in Thompson - is a brilliant and fascinating work, bridging Classical and Romantic styles.

One of my favorite movements is the Sanctus, which is in 6/8, and has, to quote Shani Wahrman, a "Christmas carol in the final scene of a movie" kind of sound. It combines the text of both the Sanctus and the Benedictus:

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth; pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Hosanna in excelsis.

The text of the Benedictus is first stated in measure 18: a soft, flowing, 8-bar phrase ending with an applied-chord half cadence in m. 24-25. When the Benedictus text is restated in m. 35, this time Rossini changes it up with a little text-painting. The first half of the phrase (m. 35-38) is almost completely untouched, but then the choir sings "qui venit in Domini," in m. 39-42. I'll give you the chords here (C major):

m. 39: V42/IV
m. 40: IV6, Fr+6
m. 41: I64--V7
m. 42: I

In m. 40, the choir sings "venit in", and Rossini sets this symbolically with a Fr+6 chord - so that as the choir "comes to the Lord", the Fr+6 announces the imminent arrival of the much-longed-for dominant in m. 41. Rossini has a nice bit of text painting there - the tension building as we wait for he who "comes in the name of the Lord", the French 6th tells us he will soon arrive - and the listener's subconscious desire for the dominant arrives with the Lord - the dominant, ha ha, with "Domini", before returning satisfyingly to tonic in m. 42.

There are many other neat little moments like that throughout the Messe - but you have to be there tonight to hear them! Trust me, it'll be worth it.

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