Petite Messe Solennelle

imageI attended another wonderful concert by the Clacton Choral Society in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, yesterday evening. [My previous comments on their performances here and here.]

There was just one work, Rossini’s ‘Petite Messe Solennelle’ in the original version.
Joining the choir were Laura Pooley (soprano), Elaine Henson (contralto), Daniel Joy (tenor), Peter Grevatt (bass), Peter Thorne (piano), Stephen Smith (harmonium).
Conducted by Peter Kenvyn Jones.

This is a large work lasting well over an hour. I have listened to it with enjoyment over many years on various recordings and was so very pleased, at last, to be able to attend a live performance. I shall never forget first listening to it and admiring an ostensibly sacred work with (to my innocent ear) a quirkily modernistic sensibility despite being composed in the mid 19th century.

I have long been a pure listener of classical music but without too much knowledge of its technicalities or of its historical context. And this work truly came alive for me yesterday as a special aural experience, combining the time and place of an unique moment. The arduous as well as inspired playing of the piano (often in an engagingly Glass-like minimalist style) beautifully complemented the singing. The excellent soloists enhanced the aura of aria as if from a Rossini opera like Barber of Seville, as well as simultaneously or separately fulfilling the appropriate religious nature of the music and its church setting. The choir was, as ever, in my view, particularly mellifluous. And the harmonium – while adding an uncanny depth alongside the piano – also had its own puckishly melodic solo of some length.

The whole experience, for me, was sacred but also dreamlike with an oblique aesthetic: an indefinable ingredient that the audience no doubt took away with them, each with their personal bespoke memory of this highly successful concert.


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