Sanctus is N˚12. of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle. It consists of 2 or each voice of the SATB choir, and no other instrument, which could be explained as an influence of the traditional style of music, also known as style Antico. Here I will attempt to analyse the movement Sanctus and point out different influences in the music and style of Gioachino Rossini.



The movement Sanctus is a composition done to be sung as a prayer to bless the bread and wine of communion. The word “Sanctus” directly translates to the word “holy”.


Sanctus follows a short Ritornello played by the Harmonium that establishes the tonic and can be divided largely into Verse 1, 2, and an extended 3rd verse. The first verse (b1 – 17) shows contrasts between unison and non-unison voice part-writing, and contrasts between tutti and soli episodes. The next verse (b.18 – 34) and the third verse (b.35 – 61, including the Coda) follow, creating a overall strophic form with most themes showing up in each verse.



The themes of this piece are repeated in the way that is expected from a strophic structure, each being repeated once in each verse in the same order, but a switch in a theme in verse 2 and a added extended theme in verse 3 show some variation in the traditional strophic form.

The first theme can be found in b.1 – 8 with a fragmented C arpeggio, followed by a descending figure, along with a passing note F# (b.7) in the soprano line.

The second theme in b.9 – 12 is a imitative statement first presented by the bassi that is a upward 5th interval that then descends in steps.

The third theme in b.12 – 17 is an arpeggio figure, sung by a pairs of soli, which is repeated by the higher pair only a 3rd higher than before (tonal sequence).

The fourth theme introduced in b.18 – 25 replaces the first theme as the beginning theme of verse 2, and is a 8bar question and answer phrase that begins with a upward 6th jump (b.18), followed by a wave-like figure (b.19 – 20), resolved by a cadence. The next 4 bars start off with the same jump, which then is followed by a step by step descent followed by another cadence.

The extended new theme at the end of verse three, the fifth theme is a theme derived from a cell of the fourth theme, five notes between b.19 – 20. It’s first introduced by the bass, which is then ended with the descending figure in steps and cadence just like the fourth theme, only slightly varied.

The final theme that resolves the entire movement with a combination of the first theme and third theme, with a huge emphasis on the words “hosanna in excelsis”. The first theme can be found in the rising fragmented arpeggio (b.56 – 58), which transitions directly into the third theme (b.58 – 61)

Harmony and Tonality

The tonality of the piece is centred around C major, with slight modulations to related keys such as A minor in b.12, G major in b.25, C minor in b.26 – 27 and in b.42 – 46.

There are pedals in the Dominant and Tonic, b.5 – 8, 27 – 29 and b.18 – 21 respectively, both found in the bassi, restating the tonal centre of the piece.

Tonal harmony combined with a chromatic progression is found in b. 46, creating a Ic – V7 – I progression in C major.

Duration and Expressive Techniques.

Duration is a minor factor of Sanctus, where only a few points can be made for the piece.

The whole piece is in 6/8 throughout.

The word Hosanna is in a speech-like figure, the syllable ‘san’ emphasized by a longer duration.

The expression of the piece is varied by different voices and the use of each voice. The homophonic texture driven by the soprano in the first and fourth themes and the polyphonic texture drawn by the imitation of the second and third themes, along with the vast dynamics from pianississimo (ppp) to fortissimo (ff), allowed Rossini to create many different ways to express the text of the music.

The words “hosanna in excelsis” is expressed with a imitation/sequence in the second theme along with a increase in pitch and dynamics, showing the context of the text in the music itself.

Explanation (Attempt)

Here’s a slight attempt at explanation of the analysis done above.

Different influences can always be found in all analysis points. For example, the use of sequences and directional melodies to portray the context of the lyrics comes from the influences of style antico, from composers such as Palestrina. This particular influence can also be found in the imitation of the melody in the second theme, where the imitation creates a staggered entrance, which resembles the entrance to most masses, especially during the medieval era, or the entrance to fugues of Bach.

I will attempt to apply additional explanations to each analysis, but it would be great to see some attempts in explanation from other students as well.