Prom 61 ó Verdi’s Requiem

This year it was the turn
of the BBC Symphony Orchestra under their Chief Conductor Jiři
Bělohl·vek, along with the BBC Symphony Chorus, Crouch End Festival
Chorus and a first-class line-up of vocal soloists.

What was truly remarkable, and frankly it should be something that can be
taken for granted in high-profile professional performances, was the
consistency in intonation and tone quality among the four soloists. They were
big voices but there was not a wobble among them. The octaves between soprano
and mezzo in the Agnus Dei were sung with such mutual sensitivity
that the effect was almost one of a single voice (though ironically, the
couple of bars where the two female voices are actually in unison revealed
that they do not naturally blend). Joseph Calleja’s beauty and strength
of tone made the Ingemisco searching and not in the least
self-indulgent, while the pinpoint accuracy of Ildebrando d’Arcangelo
gave the broken phrases of the Mors stupebit an authoritative
finality which made the rests work at least as effectively as the notes.

Though Violeta Urmana’s Libera me never quite sounded as though
she was terrified for her mortal soul, the sheer power and accuracy of her
delivery made for a hair-raising experience. Pace my reservations
about this one-time mezzo’s ability to crown the orchestral sound with her
top notes, even the quiet ones. Olga Borodina cancelled at short notice and
was replaced by Michelle DeYoung, whose glinting mezzo in the Liber
left the audience in little doubt that this WOULD be the fate
in store for them.

For the Sanctus and Libera me fugues,
Bělohl·vek’s tempi were somewhat steady, perhaps due to the need
to accommodate the substantial massed choral forces. As in many past
performances of this piece, the trumpets of the Tuba mirum were
arranged at various points throughout the Hall, with the third group being
high up in the Gallery at the back; spatially it’s very effective, but
musically it’s a mistake because of the sheer distance and resultant
time-lag. They were never going to be in time with each other.

Generally, though, the orchestral sound was full and impressive, and the
combined effort made for the finest and most powerful performance of the
Verdi Requiem I can recall.

Ruth Elleson © 2008

image_description=Giuseppe Verdi
product_title=Prom 61 ó G. Verdi: Requiem
product_by=Violeta Urmana (soprano), Michelle DeYoung (mezzo-soprano), Joseph Calleja (tenor), Ildebrando d’Arcangelo (bass). BBC Symphony Chorus, Crouch End Festival Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra. Ji?Ì B?lohl·vek (cond.)
Royal Albert Hall, 31 August 2008