Puccini Messa di Gloria

Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini

Tut Tut Mr Milliband.  No point giving a speech without notes if you then forget the key points.  I have just heard a wonderful interview with the now late Duchess of Devonshire on Women's Hour.  Asked why her sisters liked extreme politicians (two were fascists and one a communist), she replied that aside from being politically minded, politicians of the day were such icons - not like the "nimby-pimby" ones we have now.  Nimby-pimby what an apt word!

When you hear the name Puccini, operas such as La boheme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly spring to mind.  Not to mention the great "football" aria Nessun Dorma.  But Puccini also wrote a Mass known as the Messa di Gloria.  It is a beautiful work, opulent and grand, full of good tunes and somewhat operatic in style but for some reason you rarely hear it.  Classic FM don't even mention the work on their website.

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was born into an Italian family of musicians where he intended to follow family tradition and become an organist.  But a visit to Pisa in 1876 to see a production of Aida had a revelatory effect on him and from then onwards he decided to follow in the footsteps of Verdi.

Antonio Pappano

Antonio Pappano

The Messa di Gloria was composed as a graduation exercise from the Instuto Musicale Pacini in Lucca, Tuscany and received it's first performance in 1880 where it was very well received.  However, he decided not to publish it and it lay hidden for the next seventy years. The work was next performed in 1952 after it had been discovered by an American priest who was on a visit to Lucca to gather material for a book on Puccini's life.  It is thought that Puccini put the work to one side because he had decided that his future lay in composing opera. However, rather similar to Verdi's great Requiem, this is one of a kind.

Roberto Alagna and Thomas Hampson

Roberto Alagna and Thomas Hampson

The recording I recommend is with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Antonio Pappano with tenor Roberto Alagna and baritone Thomas Hampson.  It is a wonderfully indulgent, rich recording which in my view suits the style of the music.  I love it.

There are very few if any good clips of this work on YouTube and unfortunately none feature the artists on the recording.  Therefore I recommend you download the work but before doing so try these although they are poor in quality and performance:   Gloria in Excelsis Deo - YouTube   and the beautiful Et Incarnatus Est - YouTube   

Posted on September 25, 2014 .