Notes and Editorial Reviews
Dion Buhagiar, cond; Anita Saliba (sop); Connie Frances Zerafa (mez); Brian Cefai (ten); Charles Vella Zarb (ten); Alfred Camilleri (bar); Albert Buttigieg (bs); Collegium Musicum Ch & O of Malta
GEGA 100 (CD: 48:16
What is the place in today’s music world for an attractive, affecting piece of music that is clearly not a masterpiece? That is a question that comes to mind listening to this disc, and it is one for
which we will each have our own answer. For me, it is a refreshing change of pace to encounter a lovely religious work that I certainly will not want to hear as often as I will the Brahms
or masses of various kinds by Fauré, Schubert, or even Bruckner. But as a change of pace, and a broadening of my own musical horizons, this provided enormous satisfaction.
Paolino Vassallo (1856–1923) was an important figure in the musical life of the island country of Malta. He wrote this Mass in 1889, after years of study in France. The very informative notes tell us that Vassallo was a leader in moving Maltese music away from a dominating Italian influence and toward a more French-influenced school. He himself studied with Guiraud and Massenet.
What we have here is a melodically imaginative and richly scored Mass, clearly influenced by his French studies—but at times a bit more outwardly dramatic and robust than you might expect. I’ve listened through it three times, and continue to find rewards, though I will admit that it is unlikely I will say that after the 10th or 20th hearing, as one always does with a piece like the Verdi
. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of moving and elevating music here—a work of dignity and yet with a certain flair and grandeur that makes it appropriate for concert setting.
The performance seems extremely devoted and accurate. The solo-writing is not virtuosic; in fact the soloists often sing as an ensemble group rather than as actual soloists, and they blend well and seem to care deeply about this score. The sound is a bit cramped at climaxes, but nothing serious; on the whole it is a well-balanced recording. The excellent notes and full text are an additional plus. All in all, a very pleasant surprise.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Works on This Recording
Grande Mass by Paolino Vassallo
Connie Frances Zerafa (Mezzo Soprano),
Anita Saliba (Soprano),
Alfred Camilleri (Baritone),
Charles Vella Zarb (Tenor),
Brian Cefai (Tenor),
Albert Buttigieg (Bass)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1889; Malta
Length: 48 Minutes 16 Secs.
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