Carlo Rizzi conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle in an Edinburgh International Festival event at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh (0131-473 2000) on 21 Aug at 8pm
It's interesting how, every so often, a composer can come to prominence in various venues, presumably without any prior co-ordination between the different performing forces involved. Last week, I reported on Broomhill Opera's staging of Il Turco in Italia by Rossini, which he wrote when he was only 19. Seventeen years later, he was penning his late opera - Le Comte Ory, currently in repertoire at Glyndebourne. Only one more opera from Rossini's pen followed it - the grandly ambitious William Tell - before the composer, at the age of 38, retired.

Though not quite... As late as 1864, the septuagenarian Rossini returned to the compositional fray with a totally unexpected and sublime late masterpiece, the Petite Messe Solennelle for 12 voices, two pianos and harmonium. Rossini referred to his Mass as the "last mortal Sin of my Old Age" and also comically questioned whether he had written sacred music (musique sacree) or damned music (sacree musique).

The Petite Messe is a charming and idiosyncratic piece, which betrays the contrapuntal influence of JS Bach, though it is not without its share of typically Rossinian good tunes.

Originally conceived for sparse forces, Rossini later orchestrated the work. Asked why, he nonchalantly replied that somebody else would only do it if he didn't.

It's this latter version which gets a rare airing in the Usher Hall this week. A fine quartet of vocal soloists comprises Nuccia Focile, Michelle DeYoung, Bruce Ford and Alastair Miles. Meanwhile, maestro Carlo Rizzi, one of the most gifted of the current younger generation of Italian conductors, takes up the baton in the Mass for the first time. Already a notable exponent of Rossini's operatic canon, Rizzi should be poised to produce a performance on a par with his dazzling account of the Verdi Requiem, also with Royal Scottish National forces, which was a much talked about highlight of the 1993 Edinburgh Festival.

EYE ON THE NEW

The Three Choirs Festival is on all this week in Hereford. On Thursday evening, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra gives the world premiere of a Festival commission - Judith Bingham's Below the Surface Stream - as well as works by Hunt and Finzi, and Schubert's Mass in A flat. Hereford Cathedral (01432 265005) 21 Aug, 8pm

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