Birmingham Festival Choral Society, at Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham
Rossini’s Petite Messe Solonelle is a peculiar work being, as conductor Patrick Larley told us, neither short nor solemn. Composed when he was 70, decades after ceasing to write operas, it does not plumb the emotional depths of Mozart or Verdi’s sacred works but contains music of great melodic charm and pathos.
Here it was performed in its original form for chorus and four solo singers accompanied by piano and harmonium (Darren Hogg). Rossini wanted a chorus of eight and here we had about ten times that number but Larley balanced the forces well.
The chorus was in good voice, tender and restrained in the valedictory Agnus Dei, but packing a vocal punch when required as in the “Amen” of the Cum Sancto Spiritu.
The soprano Megan Llewellyn Dorke was outstanding in her solo items, in firm and steady voice, engaged with the text, and always sounding convincing.
She well supported by mezzo Jennifer Westwood in the Qui Tollis duet. In the tenor solo Domine Deus Martin Hindmarsh was raw and strained when required to sing high and loud while Richard Strivens’ bass sounded tremulous rather than authoritative.
Pianist Kevin Gill was admirable as a constantly attentive yet self-effacing accompanist.