Verdi Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall review ***

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Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Bach Choir

Royal Festival Hall, 13th April 2017

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko – Conductor
Maija Kovalevska – Soprano
Karen Cargill – Mezzo-Soprano
Saimir Pirgu – Tenor
Alexander Vinogradov – Bass
The Bach Choir

Verdi – Requiem

Right. Off to the RFH with BUD for a bit of Verdi Requiem action. I have heard performances of this Requiem in the very distant past but was curious to re-visit as part of the ongoing musical education and to find out if I was missing a trick with my wholesale rejection of the Verdian operatic canon.

Well I can safely say that the RPO under Mr Petrenko and the Bach Choir gave this a right going over. I guess that is the point of the Verdi Requiem but even so it was a sight to see and hear. The Dies Irae pinned us right back in our seats. Even if you profess no interest in classical music yo will have heard this a million times (check out the link below if you don’t believe me). And it is a rollicking good tune. And, to be fair, in other parts where the volume is cranked up to 11 like the Sanctus, it is hard not to be carried along. But this is undeniably an operatic piece masquerading as a Requiem, so for long stretches there are repeated “arias” with gushing, melodramatic orchestral support. I fear it is just not for me. Some of us like our music with the bones and muscle on show; some of us prefer to see it dolled up to the nines with frocks and wigs. For me Verdi, however hummable the tunes, is an arch exponent of the latter category. Still different strokes for different folks eh.

Verdi Requiem – Dies Irae

And we definitely enjoyed the racket the Bach Choir made and the performances of the soloists, notably the tenor and soprano. I have a couple of Mr Petrenko’s Shostakovich recordings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra which are excellent, and there was, for me, a bit of Shostakovian backbone in the playing.

So lots to admire and plenty of learning but I think I know I can safely tuck Giuseppe, along with his mate Giacomo, back in the box marked not for me.

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