Gioachino Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle

Rossini Critical Edition

Edited by Davide Daolmi (2013)

Soloists, Chorus, two Pianos and Harmonium version
One-volume set: score + critical commentary pp. XXXI, 192
GR 37
Softcover volume
NR 141908

Orchestra version
One-volume set: score + critical commentary pp. XXI, 366
GR 38

Introductory texts: one volume, pp. 150
GR 39

The Petite messe solenne/le is an integral and crowning part of Rossini’s last creative period, the musical outcome of which is the collection he entitled Péchés de vieillesse. The writing of the Petite messe passed through numerous stages of which a version for Soloists, Chorus, Piano, Stuffing Piano (ripieno) and Harmonium and a later version for Soloists, Chorus, Organ and Orchestra remain. The study of these layered phases is crucial for understanding what Rossini’s legacy is, beyond the rhetoric about the composer’s last word.

At an advanced stage of elaboration, on March 14, 1864 (no less than two years after the compositional process began), the Petite messe solenne/le was performed in its chamber version at the home of Count Pillet-Will and repeated there the following year. The performance did not exhaust the creative affair: in fact, Rossini continued to correct the chamber version’s papers with a view to orchestration (an urgency perhaps moved by the success of that performance). As is customary, he did so on the original draft, which today no longer reflects the state in which the Mass was first performed, a state that is nonetheless substantially reconstructible thanks to numerous testimonies, a copy prepared at the same time as the performance (the so-called Pillet-Will copy), and an analysis of the traces left by the various changes on the autograph manuscript.

Overwriting the earlier versions, Rossini took care of the drafting – including the filing of the paratext – to the smallest detail, taking as much time as he had hardly ever taken before. The chamber version left to posterity turns out to be consistent with the orchestral version and, although it predates the latter, shows itself to be a self-sufficient text in every way. The orchestral version, as opposed to the private nature of the original draft, seems instead to want to fulfill the role of a public contribution, albeit a personal one, regarding the lively debate of those years around the renewal of sacred music.

The juxtaposition of the two versions makes it possible to reread the Petite messe in its complexity, and the reconstruction of the context in which the stages of the work are set refines the understanding of Rossini’s compositional process.