LCS Sleuth Solves Rossini Riddle!

In planning the November concert, our conductor Dan had a problem. He wanted the choir to sing three motets to accompany Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor, but scores and recordings gave conflicting information about the works, which appeared to be by Rossini and be called O Salutaris Hostia, Ave Maria and Salve Regina. The Salve Regina was a particular problem as in some recordings, and even on the score which Dan had found, it bore the same title as the Ave Maria.

These days we nearly always turn to the Internet as the magic solution to such puzzles but I found little help there. So I went off to that old standby, the public library! I found the solution in the last of a pile of nine volumes about Rossini – the biography (in Italian!) by Luigi Rognoni. This revealed that O Salutaris Hostia was written by Rossini in 1857 as an unaccompanied four-part motet.

Ave Maria also appeared around the same time as a four-part setting – in this case with organ accompaniment – in the maestro’s final collection of miniatures called the ‘Sins of Old Age’. Rossini had written this motet to present to the French Empress Eugénie, in an attempt to get a pension granted to one of his friends. As for our “problem piece” – the Salve Reginathis too appeared in the same collection.

So what of the confusion over titles? Apparently it was the Rossini Foundation which was the guilty party: for some reason they gave the piece the title Ave Maria, an entirely spurious attribution according to Rognoni!

So on Saturday the 14th November, we shall indeed be singing three motets by Gioachino Rossini, correctly entitled O Salutaris Hostia, Ave Maria and Salve Regina!

© Martin Bull 2015

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