Messa di Gloria*
Roberto Alagna (tenor)*
Thomas Hampson (baritone)*
London Symphony Chorus*
London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antonio Pappano
CD No: EMI CDC 5 57159 2 Duration: Reviewed: March 2002
Pappano, Alagna, Hampson play Puccini on EMI
Reviewed by Andrew Marshall
This proves to be a superb CD of non-operatic music by Puccini, one that should prove stimulating to anyone thinking Puccini only a creator of high-drama although the composers theatrical instincts are always lurking.
Its all-too-easy to be snobbish about Puccinis tuneful, rather un-religious setting of the Mass. The Gloria itself is joyous a positive and sparkling religious celebration without stodginess or sanctimonious expression. Alagna and Hampsons faithful and plangent contributions will not disappoint these singers many fans. How instinctive Puccinis writing for voices is, the luminous arias that, as from any composer drawn to the stage, have a melodramatic edge too; Puccinis craft is unaffected not only a good tune, the context is also vividly conveyed.
Pappano is the ideal interpreter of Puccinis unashamed, uncelebrated setting. Puccinis spontaneity is not forfeited even though the chorus and orchestra are both meticulously prepared. The London Symphony Chorus is outstandingly good, the LSO a model of professionalism.
Of the pieces for orchestra, Crisantemi is a delicate flower for strings only, an eloquent salon piece, wonderfully played by a string-section second to none these days. Preludio sinfonico is Puccinis first published work. Tenderness and impulse are high on the composers agenda, and while these are attractive in themselves, its also fun to hear suggested the fund of melody that would become Puccinis trademark.
I did wonder if the open, slightly chilly acoustic of the Abbey Road studios might have been made a little warmer. Messa di Gloria is not a heavy work and it would have benefited from more intimate sound. The balance of the soloists, and between the choir and orchestra, is very effective though.