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Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

- Winchester College New Hall

Shelley Everall – soprano
Susanna Spicer – mezzo soprano
Andrew Carwood – tenor
Christopher Foster – bass

Winchester Music Club and Orchestra
Elizabeth Russell – leader

Neil Chippington – conductor

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Review

from the Hampshire Chronicle Music Diary by Eric and Joan Wood

For the second concert of the 1998-99 season, Winchester Music Club presented Rossini’s delectable Petite Messe Solennelle in New Hall, Winchester College, on Saturday evening.

If some of the charm and delicacy of the original version for chamber choir, two pianos and harmonium is lost in the orchestrated adaption of six years later, chosen for this occasion, the glorious melodic and lyric content is unimpaired, while the grandeur and dramatic moments are heightened.

Conductor Neil Chippington chose tempi that kept the large choir and orchestra – leader Elizabeth Russell – in buoyant form and these combined with crisp rhythms enhanced the exuberance which fills the faster sections.  Good balance and quality of tone among the chorus, with excellent control of nuance, although a continuing feature, was best appreciated during the beautiful a capella Sanctus and Benedictus.

The soloists were equally successful in mastering technical demands. Soprano Shelley Everall sang the Cucifixus section of the Credo with tenderness and feeling, while the sweeping phrases of O Salutaris were finely moulded. Susanna Spicer (contralto) could produce the warm sounds the lyrical writing requires, and her commitment at the end of the Agnus Dei (Dona nobis) was unquestionable.

Both ladies were valuable partners in various ensembles. A vigorous, forthright Domine Deus from the Gloria found Andrew Carwood to be the possessor of some ringing top notes, while Christopher Foster’s (baritone) Quoniam, also from the Gloria, ranked among the highlights of the evening.

The orchestra securely underpinned the majestic climaxes of the first part of the work, often stressing the vital rhythmic content, and opportunities for sensitive support, particularly in the second half, were not overlooked. A little preponderance of wind early on disappeared later.

Apart from a few short-lived moments of unease, this was a secure and obviously well prepared performance that brought out the mastery of Rossini’s heartfelt conception and did the Music Club great credit.