Verdi Requiem

Last Saturday to hear the SSO’s performance, conducted by its chief conductor designate, David Robertson, and with the Sydney Philharmonia Choir and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus. The last presumably accounted for my sighting of Jun Yi Ma, the TSO’s concertmaster, in the foyer beforehand.

In its day the Requiem was criticised by some as being too operatic but if anything I would have preferred a more operatic performance than I felt we got. That’s partly a matter of the type of chorus (Gelmetti’s importation of the Rome Opera chorus is a pretty hard thing to live up to) and partly a matter of vocal style in the soloists. Of the four soloists, the mezzo, Olesya Petrova, was the stand-out singer, followed by the bass Ain Anger; Erin Wall (who was a late substitute) and John Daszak, the tenor, were less convincing. Erin warmed up later on but what I particularly missed was the moments where the line descends to the chest voice and then settles in one of those Verdian cadential tags. I like a theatricality which didn’t quite come.

The other aspect of Verdi’s operatic art is his capacity to set a text. The requiem displays this and in spades. If I wasn’t as moved by it as I have been on former occasions, maybe its because I’ve become, over time, more disconnected from that text.

Everybody else there seemed to think the performance was pretty good. I enjoyed it, even if I am cavilling here. For the time being you can watch it on demand here.

After the performance there was to be a chat in the Northern foyer between Mr Robertson and Rory (“prefect”) Jeffes, the orchestra’s managing director, about Robertson’s plans for the orchestra’s future. Experience has taught me that such events are rarely really illuminating and are often even irritating – especially if questions are taken. I didn’t wait to find out if they were. (An account by one who did is here.)

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