VINCENZO BELLINI: Mass in G; Mass in D – Cinzia Forta, soprano/ Paoletta Marrocu, soprano/ Stefano Ferrari, tenor/ Lorenzo Regazzo, bass/ Accademia and Filarmonici Orchestra and Chorus/ Maurizio Ciampi, conductor – Nuova Era 224175, 73:37 *** [Distr. by Allegro]:
Though Vincenzo Bellini spent the vast majority of his formative years writing church music (and secular songs), one rarely thinks of him as a “sacred” composer. In fact his output is fairly formidable, with at least six masses that we know of. The first two, juvenilia for sure (written between the age of 9 and 14) have been lost. The remaining four are in various states of disrepair, though the choral parts are in effect intact, and therefore the process of restoration is one that can rely on much skill and little guesswork. The last two masses in A and G minor were composed during the composer’s Neapolitan years, while the middle two (given here) are from his hometown of Catania, and were written in 1818 partly as an entrance exercise to the conservatory in Naples.
Having never heard these before, I was quite surprised at their maturity, easily outranking some similar works by Italian composers of the age much more advanced in years. One thing that will slap you in the face is the abundance of melody—which shouldn’t come as much of surprise considering the composer’s subsequent operatic activity—and even the choral passages are predominantly guided by purely melodic concerns. A morning in church with these two masses would be a pleasant and tuneful one indeed.
I am of two minds about this recording. All of the forces (and the orchestra sounds very small) are over-recorded, meaning that each group is captured far too close for any kind of comfort. This is a shame, for proper balances and a more realistic sonic perspective might have launched these basically fine performances into a different category. As is, I can enjoy these despite the claustrophobic sound and sometimes negotiable high notes of the two sopranos, who are also not helped by having the microphones thrust down their throats. The chorus is excellent, and the performances sound about as solidly stylistic to the period as you might wish for. A good effort, but hardly definitive.
— Steven Ritter