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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Incoming TSO Chief Gives Us Proof That Unbelievers Write The Best Religious Music

By Norman Lebrecht on April 19, 2019

 

Gustavo Gimeno (Photo: Marco Borggreve)
Gustavo Gimeno (Photo: Marco Borggreve)

Rossini: Petite Messe Solonelle (Pentatone)

★★★☆☆
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As proof that the Devil has the best tunes, it is an established fact that atheists write the best religious music. Verdi, Elgar, Saint-Saens, Janacek, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, Britten… the list of unbelievers who wrote great sacred works extends to the limits of the known universe. And while we know little of Rossini’s state of faith, it is safe to assume that a man of his dedicated hedonism was not one of the godlier composers.

His ‘little mass’, written in 1863 when the composer was in poor health and mourning a friend’s death, has all the Rossini hallmarks of hummable tunes, high arias and a low tolerance for solemnity. It is about as much fun as church music can be, so much so that it seems almost sacrilegious to play it at Easter — especially the Domine Deus, which will make you want to dance.

Gustavo Gimeno raises a keeps a tight grip on this Luxembourg performance with the local orchestra, the Vienna Singakademie and three Italians out of four soloists. Gimeno, the incoming Toronto chief, takes the mass at a steady trot. Sara Mingardo and Luca Pisaroni are the standout soloists and the Viennese are well within their comfort zone. The okay orchestra is not helped by a recessed sound image.

In all, though, this is an agreeable performance of a work that is infrequently and unevenly recorded. Searching my shelves I find a Chailly album that looks well-played. This falls not far short.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

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