Petite messe solennelle

Event Information

Venue(s):
Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max [impressario] Strakosch

Conductor(s):
Max Maretzek

Price: $2 reserved; $1; $8, $10, $12 private boxes

Event Type:
Choral

Performance Forces:
Vocal

Record Information

Status:
Published

Last Updated:
24 September 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

29 Apr 1869, 8:00 PM
30 Apr 1869, 8:00 PM

Program Details

American premiere of Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle. Three performances were originally scheduled at Steinway Hall, spanning Thursday (04/29/69), Friday (04/30/69), and Sunday (05/02/69) evenings. At some point, the decision was made to move the first two performances to the Academy of Music to accommodate larger audiences, with the last remaining at Steinway Hall. But the Sunday Steinway Hall performance (which was advertised at lower prices: $1.50 reserved; $1) was cancelled at the last minute, because of a heavy rain storm. Maretzek is repeatedly mentioned in the citations as the conductor of the orchestra and performance; Toriano, who is also listed as a conductor, was presumably conductor of the chorus.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Citations

1)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 01 March 1869, 9.
2)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 22 March 1869.
3)
Announcement: New York Post, 12 April 1869.

Brief. “Of coming concerts, we note…the production by Max Strakosch on the 20th instant, of Rossini’s Mass with Miss Kellogg as the principal singer.”

4)
Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 19 April 1869.

“Mr. Max Strakosch, who bought it at an enormous price the only copy for the United States, is determined to neither spare the troupe nor the expense, to complete the execution of Rossini’s masterpiece, the eminent composer who has just died, so completely and artistically as possible.”

5)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 21 April 1869, 5.

“The first production in America of Rossini’s Messe Solennelle is announced for the 29th of April. It will take place not at Steinway Hall as heretofore announced, but at the Academy of Music—a change which we believe the public will heartily applaud. Steinway Hall has a somewhat larger seating capacity than the Academy—a fact of which we believe most persons are not aware—but the opera house is better suited for the gathering of the brilliant and fashionable audiences which this last work of the great master of Italian melody will undoubtedly attract. Foreign critics are unanimous in their praises of the Mass, and even after all due allowance has been made for the enthusiasm so apt to be aroused by the posthumous production of the works of one just taken away from earth—a sort of apotheosis to which all the great names in literature and art are subject—we have abundant reason to believe that the Messe Solennelle is one of the finest of all Rossini’s works. The solo parts in Mr. Strakosch’s distribution are allotted to Miss Kellogg, Madame Testa, and Signori Boetti, and Antonucci; the chorus, we are assured, will be strong, and the orchestra everything that a reasonable man could wish. Mr. Max Maretzek has the direction of affairs, and therefore we may be sure that they will be directed carefully and intelligently.

6)
Announcement: New-York Times, 23 April 1869, 4.

“Rossini’s posthumous Mass will be given by Mr. Strakosch, at the Academy of Music, on Thursday evening next.”

7)
Advertisement: Boston Daily Evening Transcript, 26 April 1869, 12.

“The management requests that any demand beyond the regular price of ticket, at either of the above named and only authorized ticket offices, should be immediately reported to MAX STRAKOSCH, Academy of Music.”

8)
Announcement: New York Post, 26 April 1869.

“The sale of seats for the first performance next Thursday evening of Rossini’s Mass, began to-day. The work will be presented at the Academy of Music with Miss Kellogg, Madame Testa and Signors Boetti and Antonucci as the principal singers.”

9)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 26 April 1869, 5.

Brief. “The sale of seats for the performances of Rossini’s Mass, at the Academy of Music, begins this morning.”

10)
Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 27 April 1869.
11)
Article: New York Post, 29 April 1869.

“It is claimed by the more enthusiastic admirers of Rossini, that his Mass, to be produced at the Academy of Music to-night will give proof of his ability to write something besides flowing melody. The fugue movement is said to be worthy of any of the old masters who delighted in this intricate branch of musical composition. Rossini’s modesty reached to eccentricity when he called this, his last production, a ‘little mass.’ It is really a grand and elaborate composition, worthy to rank beside the Stabat Mater. The liveliest interest is felt in musical circles here in regard to this music, and the sale of seats shows that the interest has assumed a phase highly beneficial to the pecuniary prospects of Max Strakosch, under whose management the Mass is produced. As to the singers, our readers are probably already aware that Miss Kellogg, Madame Testa, Signor Boetti and Signor Antonnucci, with the chorus of the Italian opera, have been selected to present Rossini’s swan-song to the American public.”

12)
Announcement: New-York Times, 29 April 1869, 4.

“THE MESSE SOLENNELLE. It will be remembered that the first performance of Rossini’s ‘Messe Solennelle’ occurs at the Academy of Music this eveing. Frequent rehearsals of the work have been had, and the promises that its interpretation will be satisfactory in every respect seem likely of fulfillment. As already recorded, Miss Kellogg, Mme. Testa, and Signori Boetti and Antonucci are the soloists. These artists will take part in three subsequent renderings of the ‘Messe,’ the first of which takes place at the Academy, Friday, while the second may be attended at Steinway Hall, Sunday, and the third and last at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Thursday next.”

13)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 29 April 1869, 7.
14)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 29 April 1869, 5.

"The following article from The Pall Mall Gazette gives the best account we have seen of Rossini’s posthumous mass which is to be produced to-night at the Academy of Music. The praise bestowed upon it by the critic, though a little extravagant, is, upon the whole, well merited. With the half-affected modesty peculiar to him, Rossini called his latest work ‘petite.’ The term will not hold. Neither in dimensions nor in character is the ‘Messe Solennelle’ a little thing. In sacred music it is its author’s masterpiece.

            [Long, detailed account of the mass follows.]

[Presumably this is still part of the Pall Mall Gazette quotation; no quotation marks indicate where it ends:] An adequate notice of the Mass, without aid from music type, is impossible, but enough has been said to convey an idea of its character. We have nothing to add save a repetition of the statement with which we set out, that, faults not withstanding, the work is a masterpiece.”

15)
Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 29 April 1869, 7.
16)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 30 April 1869, 9.

“Increased orchestra.”

17)
Review: New York Herald, 30 April 1869, 3.

“It is an extremely difficult thing for a manager or director to give a Mass in a theatre with any kind of effect. The spirit of the church must be present to imbue the hearer with a due appreciation of the sublime throughs conveyed in the sacred text, and the opera goer with his or her lorgnette, the quartet of soloists seated before the footlights, the chorus ranged on their platform on the stage, and the conductor in the orchestra beneath, dispel all idea of religion. Therefore we must say that Rossini’s Mass, about which such a great stir has been made in Europe, was not presented last night at the Academy of Music to the same advantage as it would in one of those grand cathedrals, where the solemnity of the scene and occasion would adequately prepare the mind for such a work. Before pronouncing an opinion on the Mass as a work we shall say something about it in detail, prefacing the subject with this remark, that an Italian opera chorus, no matter how they may be drilled for a special occasion of this kind, can never be expected to sing aught than mechanically—without that expression and appreciation of the sacred text which few choirs even are able to attain. The Kyrie gives a very favorable introduction to the work. The agitated bass, which, by the way, was not sufficiently marked last night, contrasts beautifully with the large, pure and rich harmony of the voices. Even here at the outset the vocal parts require long practice and study to be given with the expression and tenderness which they require. The contrapuntal character is simple enough, but beneath is a mine of expression which was not developed at the performance last evening. The Christe is an old-fashioned canon which we think would be far more effective if sung by the soloists instead of the chorus. It was utterly lost in the vocal avalanche which was precipitated on it from the operatic body of singers. The Kyrie is repeated in a major key corresponding to the opening minor theme. The Gloria opens strangely and rather weakly. Throughout the instrumentation savors too much of brass and in some places it destroys the vocal beauties of the work. As a general rule the orchestration of the Mass is by no means equal to the vocal parts. The soprani sing Gloria in Excelsis Deo in a common place strain which is somewhat compensated for by the entrance of all the voices in full harmony. The succeeding andantino, Et in Terra Pax, is a bass solo with a very peculiar and effective (from its peculiarity), accompaniment built upon alternate tonic and subdominant chords which pass from key to key abruptly, but with singular effectiveness. The trio for contralto, tenor and bass, Gratias Agimus, brings out an unmistakable melody of Rossini of the most beautiful kind and the treatment of it is no less beautiful. The tenor solo, Domine Deus is of the same robusto character as the well-known Cujus Animam, but exceedingly commonplace and trivial. In an opera it might prove satisfactory, but it is utterly unsuited for the church. Signor Boetti did not, however, do it justice. The Qui Tollis, a duet for soprano and contralto, is a gem, and it was deliciously sung by Miss Kellogg and Mme. Tosta [sic]. The harp accompaniment sets it off to advantage. We object to the trills marked on the score, as they should never be heard in a mass. Antonucci sang the Quoniam, an ambitious bass solo, in superb style. The concluding figure of this number, over which Paris has gone crazy, is not such a wonderful thing after all. It is made unnecessarily difficult by the singular and we might add paltry accompaniment, which would answer for a ballad better than for a contrapuntal affair of such dimensions. The female voices are written so low that they are at times lost in the deluge of the tenors and basses, and the subjects are spun out to their extreme limit. In order to make this pigue [sic] successful it will be necessary to train the chorus to a higher degree of efficiency than they showed last evening. The orchestration of the Credo is particularly ineffective. The piece opens in a massive, broad and dignified manner for the voices. The Crucifixus, a soprano solo, is a true Rossinian melody of rare grace and beauty, but inappropriate to express in music the tremendous mystery of the Redemption. As a purely musical work, however, it will compare favorably with any of the melodies of the ‘Swan of Pesaro.’ Miss Kellogg brought out all its beauties to the fullest extent. Immediately before it came the Et Incarnatus, which is a highly effective illustration of the Incarnation, but which was spoiled by the tame, mechanical manner in which the unisons were given. We did not like the manner in which the Et Resurrexit opened. It may be a choral outburst of peculiar character, but it illustrates nothing. The fugue at the end of the Credo is not so ambitious or so complicated as its predecessor, but we like it better for its more thoroughly consonance with the old Italian (the best for church music) school. The Sanctus is charming. It is sung by the voices, without accompaniment; the soloists and chorus dialogue, in irresistible strains. To the contralto falls the two grandest solos of the Mass. Alboni revived the triumphs of her early days by singing those morceaux when the mass was produced in Paris. One is the O Salutoris; the other, the Agnust Dei. In both Mme. Natalie Testa gave evidences of being a thorough artist and sympathetic vocalist. The former of those pieces has some weak points in the abrupt transitions from key to key, many of which are trivial, but there is much dramatic power in the first subject, the second being of a widely different and weaker character. The very best number in the entire mass is the Agnus Dei, a contralto solo, with chorus. It is dramatic in the highest degree, and the orchestration is really fine. The intensity of passion shown in the contralto’s appeal is set off in strong light by the calm, earnest prayer of the chorus, Donna nobis pacem. As a whole, the Mass does not come up to the legitimate standard of the Italian school of church music, and falls far beneath the works of Cherubini, Mercadante, Generali or Zingarelli. There are many beauties in it, and on a second hearing it may improve, but the extravagant encomiums passed upon it by the European press are simply nonsense. Mr. Maretzek conducted the orchestra, and Mr. Schreiner sat at a harmonium. The house was crowded to its fullest extent by one of the most fashionable audiences ever assembled within its walls. The performance will be repeated to-night.”

18)
Review: New-York Times, 30 April 1869, 5.

“Anticipated by European audiences by a few weeks only, metropolitan lovers of music listened for the first time, last evening, to Rossini’s ‘Messe Solennelle.’ The work was interpreted at the Academy of Music in presence of an assemblage that filled the house, and bestowed upon the performance an unbroken attention. It is pleasant to record these facts at the outset of the brief reference we propose to make, at present, to Mr. Strakosch’s enterprise. Their existence indicates a disposition on the part of the public to encourage, by substantial aid and cheering interest, efforts rude as the one that has resulted in the bringing out of the maestro’s posthumous composition. That disposition once again proven, will, of course, have for effect a constant endeavor on the part of impresario to improve the character of their performances. It is impossible not to feel grateful to Mr. Strakosch for his attempt, even if the absolute perfection of its details cannot be chronicled. The ‘Messe’ itself we do not now intend to describe. A gigantic work, it calls for more comments than one single hearing suggests or the incidents of a first night leave time to indite [sic]. Its interpretation, satisfactory in some respects, was mediocre in others. An orchestra remarkable in point of numbers and proficiency, and under the conductorship of Mr. Maretzek, quite overbalanced the small chorus notably deficient in fresh voices. Not only on this account did some impressive choral movements fail of much of their effect, but the beauty of the superb fugue closing the first part, so far as the share of the vocal masses were concerned, was seriously lessened. Of the soloists, Signor Antonucci bore off the honors. His elaborate Quoniam, and his part singing in the concerted passages, won deserved approval. Miss Kellogg did not acquit herself of her very difficult task with her wonted felicity, until the ‘Messe’ was all but ended, when her admirable execution of the Crucifixus secured the first and one of the few encores of the evening. The others were elicited by the magnificent Sanctus, exhibiting, in marked contrast, the unison delivery by the soloists of ‘Hosanna in Excelsis,’ and the smooth responses of ‘Benedictus’ by the chorus, and by Mme. Testa’s ‘O Salutaris,’ which was rendered with genuine skill. Sign Boetti was the tenor, and sang with taste and correctness, but with less sentiment than the order of the music called for. More than this we need not say, reserving our views of the merits of the ‘Messe’ for a special presentation. Its repetition this evening will doubtless give less opportunity for unfavorable criticism than must all initial performances of similar magnitude.”

19)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 30 April 1869, 7.
20)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 30 April 1869, 4.

“Rossini’s Messe Solennelle is a delight for all musicians, and a surprise for many of the composer’s most ardent admirers. Hence the opinions expressed among the audience last night were of a singularly various character. From the select few nothing was heard but admiration; but the multitude, who had expected a sort of glorified ‘Stabat Mater,’ even more melodious and more dramatic than that most beautiful but most unecclesiastical work, came away bewildered, and apparently uncertain whether to be rapturous or disappointed. It is a Mass, not a Cantata, and it is decidedly a solemn Mass, breathing devotion, and reverence and elevation of the soul, and irradiated by gleams of that peculiar glory which belongs to the highest kind of religious music, and to it alone. At the same time, we confess that we cannot fully share the [illeg.] of the French critics. There are many commonplace passages in the composition to remind us that Rossini was only a man, after all, not an angel; and the most elaborate of the solo melodies indicate the decline of that prolific genius which so long entranced the world.

“The Kyrie opens with great solemnity and impressive effect, the male chorus leading with a movement in a minor key. A freer melody is soon taken up by the female voices, and joined in by the whole chorus, beginning sotto voce, and rising to a splendid fortissimo. The admirable suspensions in this movement will be generally admired. The Christe eleison [sic] is a genuine old-fashioned canon, and then the Kyrie is repeated, but in a major key. The effect of the whole number is that of calm and solemn beauty. The Gloria is ushered in by a bold choral outburst, of a more joyous character, and this is followed by a quartette and chorus, the bass solo leading with a good piece of declamation on the Laudamus. A more charming number than this, however, is the Gratias animus, which comes immediately after—a trio for contralto, tenor, and bass, in which the bass again has the lead. The melody is delightful, and the religious sentiment very plainly marked. The one tenor solo of the Mass is the Dominus Deus. It presents in the first few bars, and in one or two subsequent portions, as well as in its general structure, a startling likeness to the Cujus animam of the ‘Stabat Mater,’ but it is vastly inferior to that popular air, and too long-drawn-out for a piece of such thin texture. Too long and too thin we may also say is the one bass solo, the Quoniam tu solus. Between these two meager numbers, however, one of the gems of the Gloria, the Qui tollis, a duet for soprano and contralto, with harp accompaniment. It lacks the sensuous melody of the famous duet in the Stabat, with which everybody is naturally impelled to compare it; but it is pathetic and delicate. The conclusion of the Gloria is the grand fugue which has created such a profound impression wherever the Mass has been performed. It richly merits the praises that have been lavished upon it. Here we find the grandeur of the old scholastic musicians, the mighty roll of harmonies, the stately onward movement of chorus following chorus, and breaking through it all the sunshine of true Rossinian melody. The fugue is majestic but not somber, grand yet cheerful, one in design and compact in treatment, but varied in the most surprising and agreeable manner. An audience not much addicted, we should fancy, to fugues, heard it with almost universal delight.

“The Credo is still more religious in its tone than the Gloria, and more homogenous in treatment. It is nearly all chorus. The first few measures are especially beautiful. The chorus and quartette together carry on the story without interruption as far as the Crucifxus, the Incarnatus not being, as it usually is, a separate number. The Crucifixus is a delicious soprano solo, well suited to the solemnity of the words, and would probably have left a deeper impression last night had not some inconceivable donkey in the midst of it sent the singer a basket of flowers. We are delighted to say that he was well hissed for his pains, and the basket was ignominiously left at the feet of the chorus. The conclusion of the Credo is mainly a repetition of the first part as far as the Et [illeg. – likely a shorthand for or misspelling of “resurrexit”], where another fugue is introduced, not so grand as that of the Gloria, but well written and effective.

“The Offertory is an organ solo, which we prefer not to criticise [sic] until we have heard it. The liberal directors of the Academy of Music not having supplied that establishment with an organ, much as such a thing is needed in every large opera-house, the organist was reduced last night to an instrument of the melodeon species, and the performance was consequently very ridiculous. It had better be omitted to-night.

“The Sanctus is a chorus and quartette, without accompaniment, and secured last night one of the only two encores. This movement is destined to become one of the most popular portions of the Mass. The Salutaris, a contralto solo, we believe was not originally written as a part of this work, nor is its introduction an improvement. It is the only theatrical effect in the whole performance, and beautiful as it is by itself, we do not think it leaves an agreeable impression, though it was last night encored. The Agnus Dei, a contralto solo with chorus, is a fitting conclusion to the work. It is pathetic and impassioned beyond description, ending with a grand choral outburst, in which divine hope seems to reach its triumph and heaven to open its gates to prayer.

“In the manner of the performance there was a great deal to praise. The due effect of the Mass depends in great degree upon the chorus. This was well drilled and only once went much astray, which was in the fugue of the Credo. It numbered however only fifty voices. About two hundred are really needed, not only to give proper expression to the music, but the balance the orchestra [sic], which comprised at least 50 pieces. This was none too many for the size of the house and the work they had to do, but the disproportion between instruments and voices was ridiculous. The principal solo part is the contralto. This was taken by Madame Testa. If we say that she was hardly equal to it, we say only what everybody knows, for the part was one which the best artists in the world might be proud to fill. Last night, however, she agreeably surprised even those who knew her best, and in the concluding part of the Agnus Dei especially she was admirable. She sings conscientiously, intelligently, and with reverence for the music, and for this she deserves thanks. Miss Kellogg, on the contrary, seemed to be oppressed with the comparative insignificance of her position, and treated the music and the audience with impolite indifference. There is, to be sure, a depth in this composition which she cannot sound; she is safest in shallow waters; but she ought always to do her best, and she certainly failed to do that last night. Her voice was weak and languishing, never giving out a good rich note except in her solo, and now and then quite inaudible except to those who sat very near the stage. The Qui tollis duet was very ineffective, party through her carelessness, but partly, also, because her voice is not naturally congenial to Madame Testa’s. The two ladies should not sing together. Signor Boetti and Signor Antonucci took the other solo parts. The former gentleman sang with intelligence and force. The latter is a favorite of ours, but on this occasion seemed deficient in energy.

“The audience of course filled the Academy, and comprised much of the most cultivated and the fashionable society of New-York, and a liberal representation of musical people from distant cities. To-night the performance will be repeated at the same place, and on Sunday night the Mass will be given at Steinway Hall.”

21)
Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 30 April 1869, 7.
22)
Review: New York Musical Gazette, May 1869, 53.

“The recent death of the world-famed Rossini, has created much interest in his forthcoming posthumous work, Messe Solonnelle, which is announced for the 29th of April, at the Academy of Music, and will undoubtedly attract a large and brilliant audience. This production is highly spoken of by European critics, is considered worthy of its author, and is indeed one of his very best works. The solo parts are to be sustained by Miss Kellogg, Madame Testa, and Signori Boetti, and Antonnucci. We only need say that Mr. Maretzek has it in charge.”

23)
Review: New York Post, 01 May 1869.

“The second performance of Rossini’s Mass last night was in many respects a marked improvement on the first. Both principals and chorus seemed to be better acquainted with the music, and sang with greater precision and boldness. The first signal success of the evening was the exquisite trio, Gratias agnus, sung by Testa, Boetti and Antonucci; and to this succeeded the excellent tenor aria Domine Deus, in which Boetti appeared to good advantage, particularly in his high notes. The fugue in the Cum Sancto was given with clearness and energy, and was fairly applauded.

“In the second part of the Mass there was a slight deviation from the printed order, the O Salutaris preceding instead of following the Sanctus. Madame Testa more than deepened the favorable impression she created on Thursday night. She sang the great contralto air with superior taste and skill, and the encore it received was so decided and prompt that no refusal to respond could be permitted. Madame Testa was obliged to repeat a portion of the composition. Miss Kellogg sang the Crucifixus with touching delicacy and sweetness. As a composition, this aria, brief and unpretentious as it is, remains, in our opinion, one of the noblest features of the entire Mass. The Sanctus—and unaccompanied chorus—was enthusiastically redemanded. It possesses more popular elements than any other number in the Mass, and will soon be heard in all our Roman Catholic churches of any musical pretension. The performance closed with the Agnus Dei, in which the contralto voice alternates so beautfifully with the chorus, all closing with a magnificent Crescendo passage in Rossini’s best style.

“Last night the leading singers remained to the close of the Mass. It is gratifying to observe, therefore, that the mistake of Thursday evening in this respect was only a mistake and has been rectified.”

24)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 01 May 1869, 6.

"We are glad to see that one of the city papers has called attention to a piece of rudeness often witnessed at oratorio performances and similar entertainments in this city, but never permitted we believe in Boston. On the first production of Rossini’s Mass at the Academy of Music, Miss Kellogg, Signor Boetti, and Signor Antonucci quitted the stage as soon as the Sanctus was ended, leaving Madame Testa alone in the middle of the stage during the last two numbers of the Mass. This was rude to the audience and unkind to a sister artist. Worse, however, remained behind, for the chorus imitated the bad example of the principals, and as soon as they had uttered the last note trooped noisily away, and the orchestra played the concluding measures amid the din of their retreating footsteps, and a general break up of the audience. It was more like a school let loose than a performance in a genteel theater. Managers might easily reform such things if they would.”

25)
Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 01 May 1869, 9.

For cancelled Sunday (05/02/69) performance at Steinway Hall.

26)
Review: New York Herald, 02 May 1869, 6.

“Notwithstanding our deliberate conviction, confirmed by a second haering, that the encomiums of the European press upon Rossini’s Solemn Mass are exaggerated, we readily concede that it contains several delightful and impressive melodies, which compare favorably with any others due to the ‘Swan of Pesaro,’ and that as a whole it is a work which every lover of music should attentively study. As we have already had occasion to remark, Miss Kellogg brings out all the beauties of the Crucifixus—a soprano solo of the true Rossinian grace and sweetness—to the fullest extent. Both in the O Salutaris and the Agnust Dei Mme. Natalie Testa give proof of being a thorough artist and a sympathetic vocalist. This evening and audience no less fashionable and numerous than that which has listened to Rossini’s Solemn Mass for two successive evenings during the present week, at the Academy of Music, will doubtless assemble to hear it at Steinway Hall; but we must say that properly to appreciate and enjoy so sublime a work it should be heard not in an opera house or music hall, but in some grand cathedral.”

27)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 02 May 1869, 9.
28)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 03 May 1869, 7.

“THE MESSE SOLENNELLE. The final performance of Rossini’s ‘Messe Solennelle,’ which was to have occurred at Steinway Hall last evening, was deferred. It may be attended on Saturday afternoon next, at the Academy of Music. We are requested to state that the holders of seats, on application at the Academy on and after Wednesday, can receive their money paid out or fresh tickets, as they may desire.”

29)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 03 May 1869, 5.

“The promised performance of Rossini’s Mass, last night, at Steinway Hall, did not take place. A placard at the door announced that in consequence of the storm it had been postponed until further notice. This was unfortunate; for the rain ceased before 8 o’clock, and there would probably have been a large attendance. We are informed that the Mass will be given next Saturday, at a matinee at the Academy of Music. Persons who bought seats for Sunday’s performance can have their money refunded or their tickets exchanged.”

30)
Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 08 May 1869, 29.

“New York. May 3.—Rossini’s extensively advertised and much lauded ‘Messe Solennelle’ was produced for the first time on Thursday evening at the Academy of Music, was repeated on Friday evening, and at Steinway Hall on Sunday evening. The solos were taken by Miss Kellogg, Mme. Testa, Sigs. Boetti and Antonucci; the orchestra numbered about fifty, and the chorus forty-five (with only ten sopranos).

“There is nothing solemn about the work with exception of its name; written in a florid, highly colored style, it is essentially operatic, any thing but sacred. The finest number in it is the ‘O Salutaris,’ in which the harmonic changes in the orchestral accompaniment are extremely beautiful and quite fresh. The solo was sung in an exceedingly effective way, by Mme. Testa, who has but little voice, but uses that little with great skill. She received a very decided encore [at the Friday evening’s performance] and was the only artist who was so honored.

“Miss Kellogg’s voice is too slender for much except light operas; her singing of the ‘Crucifixus’ (which she curiously pronounces cru-che-fixus) was but little above mediocrity and elicited very little applause. In the ‘Sanctus’ she attempted to touch high C, and the result was a facial contortion and a positive screech, which was most unmusical.

“The chorus singing was tolerably good, but the vocal force was entirely inadequate for the demands of the work, the size of the orchestra, and the demands of the work, the size of the orchestra, and the dimensions of the building. As regards the instruments, the trombones and other brass were too blatant and obtrusive, and needed toning down, and the whole force—vocal, instrumental—seemed a little out of the control of Mr. Maretzek, who conducted the performance.”

31)
Review: New York Clipper, 08 May 1869, 38, middle, col. 2.

"Rossini’s Posthumous Mass, as produced by Max Strakosch the past week at the Academy, may be set down as a ‘Posthumous’ failure, the singing and instrumentation at no time awakening any decided enthusiasm. The critics have endeavored to deal kindly with it, but it was up hill work with them. If it cannot be interpreted any better than Max Strakosch’s company have interpreted it, a long life cannot be predicted for the Mass among the masses.” 

32)
Review: New York Post, 30 May 1869.

“The most interesting musical event of the season was the production of Rossini’s Mass at the Academy of Music last night. The interest attaching to the work as the last production of Rossini’s genius, and the acceptation with which it had been received by foreign audiences, combined to make it almost a duty for every one at all devoted to music to attend the first performance of the Mass in America. The audience last night thus included nearly every professional and amateur musician of prominence in the city.

“The mass began at about a quarter past eight. Maretzek conducted the large orchestra, and the vocalists were arranged on the stage, the chorus singers being seated on two red-draped platforms, and the soloists—Miss Kellogg, Madame Testa, Signor Boetti, and Signor Antonucci—occupying seats before the footlights. Programmes, with the Latin words of the mass and an English translation, were provided for the audience.

“The opening Kyrie is preceded by eight bars of prelude characterized by a restless bass, the voices entering with a contrapuntal passage at the ninth bar, leading soon to a melodic strain of the true Rossinian style. The Christe is a double canon of twenty-three bars’ duration, and the Kyrie is then resumed, passing through several keys and closing with a long diminuendo, which leads to the Gloria, an elaborate and peculiar composition, differing largely from the usual style of the master. The Gratias Agimus is a trio that is sure to become widely popular. It is written in the key of A major, for contralto, tenor and bass voices, the latter leading off the melody and throughout the piece forming its most notable feature. The Dominus Deus is the principal tenor solo in the mass, and is a broadly marked melody, more grateful to the voice than the well-known Cujus aninam, though not so striking to the ear. It is quite certain, however, that this number will at once be added to the repertory of church tenors. The Qui tollis is a duet for soprano and contralto, an exquisite creation, though not equal to the Quis est homo with which it is naturally composed. A bass solo of merit—The Quoniam—follows, and leads to the Cum Sancto, a fugue which created the greatest excitement among the Parisian amateurs, and clearly shows the skill of Rossini in this, to him, unusual class of composition. The Credo contains several distinct movements, none of which are specially effective. Then comes a soprano solo—Crucifixus—in which, by judicious instrumentation, a profound effect is produced, on the words et sepultus est. The solo, however, is so low, that it is suited rather to a contralto than a soprano voice. In the Et resurrexit occurs a sort of fugue. An organ prelude, feebly played last night on a cabinet organ, precedes the Sanctus, a superb and melodious composition, in which the principals and the chorus have alternate passages, all singing without accompaniment. This is perhaps the most admired portion of the Mass, and last night received an enthusiastic encore. The contralto aria O Salutaris contains andante and allegro movements, and includes several unusual effects in its sudden changes of key. The Agnus Dei is also for contralto, with choral responses, and is in every way a masterpiece. The melody is several times repeated, each time in a different key, while in the ensemble passages the contralto voice is heard with rare dramatic effect on the word ‘Miserere.’ There is in this closing composition a mingled majesty and sweetness which combine to make it one of the most exquisite productions of the great master. There is, indeed, but one verdict in regard to the entire mass—that it is fully worthy of Rossini. It is not his greatest work. It will never drive the Stabat Mater out of the field; but it will take its position at once as one of the most masterly church compositions of the present century. In a church, too, where the sacred words will not seem out of place, as in a theatre, it will be in every way more effective.

“A few words about the execution of the mass last night. The choruses were unevenly balanced, the female voices being insufficient in number and power, and the whole chorus lacking in strength to struggle successfully against the very large orchestra. Excepting in one of the fugues, the choristers, however, sang correctly. Among the soloists the palm of merit must be given to Madame Testa, who more than any other seemed to enter into the spirit of the music, and to comprehend the majesty of the words. In none of her operatic efforts here has this lady done herself such credit as in last night’s Mass. Miss Kellogg, on the other hand, has seldom appeared to less advantage. The music does not lie in a range that calls forth her best notes, and excepting in the Crucifixus she seemed to take but little interest in the performance. Miss Kellogg has many gifts, among them a charming voice, a correct taste and a prepossessing personal appearance. She also has her trials. The most severe, we trust, is the possession of such indiscreet, asinine friends as those who at the sublime words of her solo—

            Crucifixus etiam pro [illeg.]

Sub Pontio Pilato passus et  pultus est—

had the impertinent irreverence to send to the stage a huge tray of gaudy flowers. We offer Miss Kellogg our sympathetic commensuration, and trust that she may be freed from such painfully injudicious admirers.

“Boetti sang the tenor part carefully, and Antonucci’s noble voice and correct execution always give satisfaction. These three latter singers, however, were strangely oblivious of the civility due a sister artist, of the respect owing to the audience, and of the reverence which the words of the Mass should inspire; for immediately after the Sanctus they hurried off the stage, as if afraid of missing a late train of cars, leaving Madame Testa to sing the concluding arias, without even the poor courtesy of their presence.

The Mass will be repeated this evening at the Academy, and on Sunday night at Steinway Hall. On these occasions the little drawbacks we have noticed will probably be obviated.”

33)
Review: New York Musical Gazette, June 1869, 59.

“There is such a din at the ‘Centre of Creation’ over the great ‘Jubilee’ that our readers may think New York only stands still to look on. Any one who has followed the musical attractions of this city the past month, however, knows that our musical season has been unusually prolonged and active.

“At the Academy of Music two great works have been for the first time presented in this country. First came Messe Solonnelle by Rossini, which had been heralded as its author’s masterpiece in sacred music. It was well-received, afforded a rare opportunity for study, and something for enjoyment, but it was hardly appreciated by our people, with the exception perhaps of Catholics who have been educated by their form of worship to love this class of sacred music. After two or three performances at the Academy, and one at St. Stephen’s Church, it was discontinued.”