Verdi’s Requiem Closes Grant Park Festival

The featured singers were Amber Wagner, soprano, Michaela
Martens, mezzo-soprano, Michael Fabiano, tenor, and Kyle Ketelsen, bass.
William G. Spaulding was the guest chorus director and the Grant Park Orchestra
was conducted by Carlos Kalmar.

The first section of the Requiem was especially effective with Kalmar
eliciting moving gestures from the cello section followed by the other strings
with a gradually intensifying volume. The Grant Park Chorus set a dignified
tone as piano segments alternated with vocal exhortations such as
“Exaudi” (“Hear”). Noteworthy was the effect of
legato singing so that the pace remained consistent up to the entrance
of the soloists in this section. Each of the latter sang an introductory line
on “Kyrie eleison” or “Christe eleison” with moving
expressiveness. The blending of principal singers and chorus was established
here for the balance of the work, so that neither dominated but rather all
achieved an ideal synthesis.

The “Dies irae,” or second part, began with appropriate dramatic
and percussive force before modulating to a more speculative and quiet section
for the chorus. Trumpets were positioned on either side of the chorus above the
stage in order to magnify the call to judgment. As the next part for bass and
chorus, “Tuba mirum” (“wondrous trumpet”), followed
seamlessly, Mr. Ketelsen released declarative and lyrically controlled
reminders on “mors” and “natura” (“death”
and “nature”). He followed these with a chillingly hushed
piano on the repeated “mors” and low bass notes of warning
on “stupebit” (“shall be stunned”). In the following
section for mezzo-soprano and chorus, “Liber scriptus” (“a
written book”), Ms. Martens sang with comparable feeling to announce the
judgment. She used her upper register most effectively on words such as
“Judex” and “judicetur” while singing a touching
melisma on “proferetur” (“will be brought forth”).
Between these parts for soloists and chorus Kalmar led the orchestra through
reprises of the “Dies irae” motif with carefully measured tempos.
In the subsequent appeal for pity shared by the four soloists and chorus Ms.
Wagner sang a smoothly descending line punctuated with impressively soaring top
notes. Mr. Fabiano’s accompanying soft notes sung on the repetition were
equally effective. As a conclusion to this part Ms. Wagner performed the final
sequence of “Salva me” with a memorable diminuendo.

In the succeeding “Recordare” duet for the women both Wagner and
Martens excelled not only in their individual parts but also in blending their
voices, for example, at “Juste judex” (“Righteous
judge”). Martens sang here with well chosen vibrato so that her part was
rendered with true pathos, while Wagner’s beautifully held pitch on
“causa” (“the reason”) added to the prayerful effect.
Just as sensitive to communicating text, Fabiano’s moving tenor
“Ingemisco” which followed was one of the highlights of this
performance. His rising notes on ”Mariam” and
“exaudisti” (“you heeded”) were sung with convincing
emotional fervor, underlined by ringing top notes directly on pitch for
“in parte dextra” (“at Your right hand”). In the
“Lacrimosa,” a section in which all four soloists have significant
parts, the magnificent lines were produced with sensitivity to the appeal for
rest and mercy. Following in the “Offertorio” both tenor and bass
included decorative and well executed trills as an emphasis on

The concluding segments of the Requiem, the “Sanctus,”
“Agnus Dei,” and “Libera me” in this performance were
significant for the interplay of orchestral and vocal elements. In the
“Lux aeterna” the flute solo was distinctly present as Ms.
Martens’s rising line was repeated at “lux perpetua luceat
eis” (“may eternal light shine on them”). Ms. Wagner’s
final solo in “Libera me” was dramatic as well as poignant. Her
thrilling high notes resolved into a prayer to end the work with gentle
orchestral accompaniment on its final note of supplication. Such a moving
performance emphasized the devotional and musical strengths of Verdi’s
religious masterpiece.

Salvatore Calomino

image_description=Giuseppe Verdi [Source: Wikipedia]
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem
product_by=Amber Wagner, Soprano; Michaela Martens, Mezzo-Soprano; Michael Fabiano, Tenor; Kyle Ketelsen, Bass. Grant Park Music Festival. Grant Park Orchestra. Grant Park Chorus. Carlos Kalmar, Conductor. William Spaulding, Guest Chorus Director.
product_id=Above: Giuseppe Verdi [Source: Wikipedia]