Germany Dresdner Musikfestspiele 2015 – Rossini: Petite Messe Solennellei: Ludmilla Bauerfeldt (soprano), Theresa Kronthaler (mezzo), Sung Min Song (tenor), Daniel Kotlinski (bass-baritone), Dresdner Kammerchor/Hans-Christoph Rademann, Semjon Skigin (piano), Michael Schutze (piano), Enrico Langer (harmonium), Frauenkirche, Dresden, 22.5.2015 (MC)
The attractive setting of the Frauenkirche, Dresden is always an appealing proposition for performances of a sacred work as long as you don’t mind the challenges of the hard wooden bench seating. A leaflet inside the concert programme explained that tenor Sergey Radchenko was unavailable and would be replaced by Sung Min Song.
Widely regarded as the greatest Italian composer of his time Rossini wrote his Petite Messe Solennelle in 1863 during his long retirement years in the Passy district of Paris. The instrumental scoring of the Messe for two pianos and harmonium may seem unusual but the work was conceived for performance in more modest settings rather than large cathedrals. The second piano plays only occasionally and when it does it doubles the first piano. Rossini originally designed the work for a dozen strong chorus from which four would sing the solo parts. Over the years the Messe has evolved for a quartet of soloists and a fairly large chorus with director Hans-Christoph Rademann here using twenty-six members in his Dresdner Kammerchor.
From the first bars of the memorable opening to its dramatic close this performance of the Petite Messe Solennelle was a stunning success for Rademann, his vocal forces and three instrumentalists. Initially, young tenor Sung Min Song may have looked extremely nervous but it didn’t show in his stunningly powerful rendition of Domine Deus accompanied by a solo piano. With a freshness to his attractive vocal and clarity of diction the South Korean is certainly a performer to look out for. Brazil born Ludmilla Bauerfeldt excelled in her soprano part especially her Crucifixus and O Salutaris Hostia solos. Projecting her voice with such ease Bauerfeldt can glide quickly to her top register, producing a tremendous weight of sound of a highly reverential character. Experienced Polish bass-baritone Daniel Kotlinski also looked tense but when actually singing his vocal was relaxed and splendidly effective. In the bass solo Quoniam tu solus sanctus with such bold piano accompaniment the reverential Kotlinski demonstrated his undoubted prowess, unmannered, splendidly in tune with an abundance of vocal heft. The radiant Agnus Dei for alto and choir with pianos and harmonium brings the work to a striking conclusion. Against the gentle voiced chorus German soloist Theresa Kronthaler displayed a rich, dark tinged alto that seemed a touch harsh when pressed. Rather deficient in reverence Kronthaler could have been singing the title role in Carmen. Directed by Hans-Christoph Rademann the well prepared Dresdner Kammerchor shone throughout the Messe. Consistent, incisive and well balanced the chorus delivered an intensely engaging performance.