Gioachino Rossini: Messa di Milano – Miserere

Rossini Critical Edition

Edited by Ferdinando Sulla (2021)

One-volume set: score + critical commentary pp. XXI, 223
GR 47

The two pieces that are the subject of the Edition have a very different testimonial tradition: of the Messa di Milano an autograph score has remained; the Miserere has been preserved in manuscript copies and in a printed edition (moreover, with another title and another destination). The Edition provides in both cases a hierarchy among the witnesses and identifies one, principal, which usually prevails over others, secondary, which enter into the collation and (according to the hierarchy) amend and supplement the music of the principal source when needed.

The Messa di Milano has all the typical structure of the missa brevis much in fashion at the time – the main framework of which consists of the first three passages foreseen by the Ordina­rium Missae: Kyrie, Gloria and Credo, in which choral passages alternate with individual solos for the principal singers. Apart from its structure, consisting of an alternation of choral and solo numbers, the Miserere shares the same instrumental and vocal organic as the Mass (except for the contralto).

In the Messa di Milano we can already recognize musical elements that we shall find further developed in the Messa di Gloria and the Petite messe solennelle regarding the use of vocal phrasing and emotional involvement in certain moments. Even more evident are echoes of his operatic works produced at the same period as the Mass, which recall some arias in La cambiale di matrimonio (1810) and L’inganno felice (1812). Similarities, echoes and sug­gestions that truly coincide with the ironic and irreverent spirit of the Swan of Pesaro.

Within these little masterpieces, however, there is no lack of that in­nocent ingenuousness pertaining to a young composer, even though he is already recognizable in his own unmistakable identity traits, coping with assimilating canons and academic rules sustained by a reverent attitude of respect with regard to a tradition of sacred music that was already firmly entrenched at the beginning of the nineteenth century.