Germanic, not Italianite
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 03/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Conductor and singer Herbert Handt discovered the Rossini Messe di Gloria, composed about 1820, and recorded it in 1976 with a memorable cast on a Philips LP. The record was well-liked by critics and fans alike.
The first edition of Penguin Guide called it, "fascinating and invigorating" saying it "contains much new to charm us. The performance is lively and well-sung." It briefly made one appearance on CD about 1993 but apparently did not do so well, fading from sight almost immediately. It has never returned to circulation and is not likely to in the future.
Defying his English roots, Handt acted completely Italian in the production. He was more than ably assisted by soloists Margherita Rinaldi, Ameral Gunson, John Mitchinson, Jules Bastin and Italian tenor Ugo Benelli, whose high C in the Qui Tollis section has still not been achieved in subsequent recordings by Marriner and Accardo.
Now comes this German recording by a group called the European Festival Orchestra and a choir from Wurttemberg, all directed by a young fellow named Wilhelm Keitel. I didn't have high hopes for this but was pleasantly surprised by the singing and fine recording.
All the soloists do very well in this recording and the DDD recording from 2000 is miles ahead of the quarter-century old recording I have of Handt's version, which was originally on reel-to-reel tape, then transferred to cassette, then burned as a CD. Even though this was done on high quality equipment, the transition of analog to analog to digital lost something in the process. Still, my my home CD sounds good -- especially since a Philips version is no longer available.
But this job by Keitel and his German forces (the soloists are American, Swiss, Italian and German, according to the English and German notes) is very good sounding and competitve with the earlier recordings by Marriner and Accardo, both of which tried to capture Handt's Italianate flavor and magic but failing to do so by a mile.
This new contender doesn't pretend to be Italian. In fact, it acts like it doesn't like Italians, like this is Rossini a la Bach! That was hard to take on first hearing, but repeated listening has shown the other virtues of this recording, not least of which is the wonderful sound.
If you like Rossini or choral music, you probably will enjoy this. It is more a curiosity than a touchstone of the genre, but at Arte Nova's price you won't be out much even if you think you made a mistake. And if you like this but want more Italian fervor, try one of the other available recording by Accardo, which is still available in England."