Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Petite Messe Solennelle

Since my friend D. is visiting from California my luck with food seems to have changed. The restaurant at the National Gallery has an excellent selection of English cheeses served with wonderful bread. Then we had great luck at the Cafe Fish near Picadilly Circus. Mushy peas were available here as a side dish.

Last night we picked just any bar in the Temple area--this one advertising tapas--and struck gold. All the dishes were quite nice.

We were on our way to the Temple Church to hear the London Lawyer's Chorus present Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle . The price was attractive: 8 pounds (including program.) We were attracted by the idea that lawyers spent their free time singing, and by the presentation of this late (1864), rarely performed work by Rossini.

We wandered through the familiar looking Inner Temple in the dark and the rain, looking into the lawyer's offices which look like the sets from Rumpole of the Bailey. We like to think that Rumpole could have had a drink at the pub we chose. The only change was the large computers on practically every desk.

Rossini stays with the antique forms with separate movements for choruses and arias, and with the antique style which does not know Berlioz and Chopin. It's an odd little piece with inexplicable twinkling on the piano. Rossini cannot surpress the tendency to write buffo.

The work is composed for piano and harmonium, chorus and a quartet of soloists, and it was a problem that the harmonium and piano players could not see one another.

The solo singing was at least as good as the ENO. The contralto solo in the last movement, sung by Charlotte Collier, made an effective dramatic climax. It won't do to overly criticize a group of lawyers getting together for fun, so I will only say that they could raise their aspirations.

We got there early enough to wander around the historic church, consecrated in 1185, with its tombs of Knights Templar. This is one of the locales for The Da Vinci Code.

All around it was a fine evening.

No comments: