Monday, October 5, 2020

Did y'all know I'm kinda fond of the Verdi Requiem?

This post (link) a few years ago was the beginning of my infamous Ten Days, Ten Verdi Requiems series. Rereading the post now brings tears to the eyes, for the work is so emotional in so many ways. I didn't finish my ten days. My life was in a bit of turmoil at the time, and much as it pains me to say it, I became emotionally exhausted. Still, I never miss a chance to hear a good one.

Such a one I found on YouTube this evening. This (link) was from the Frankfurt Radio Symphony and the MDR Rundfunkchor, under the direction of Andrés Orozco-Estrada. Soloists were Erika Grimaldi, Soprano; Violeta Urmana, Mezzosoprano; Saimir Pirgu, Tenor; and Kihwan Sim, Bass. The performance was at the Alte Oper Frankfurt in October, 2017.

Violeta Urmana
Photo:  Ivan Balderramo

This was a highly skilled and nuanced performance. Great praise are due to conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada (and chorus master Philipp Ahmann), and to the Frankfurt Symphony and the MDF Rundfunkchor. But I must confess I have a small child's wonder of amazing soloists, and heard four this evening. 

I believe the most famous soloist to Americans might be Violeta Urmana, famed for mezzo and zwischen-fach roles such as Santuzza. She assayed roles such as Aida at the Met, but not with the success of her other roles. In this performance Ms. Urmana left nothing to be desired--rich, sonorous, voluminous, and subtle are just a few way to describe her singing. I always say "Liber scriptus" must part your hair, and boy howdy, did it ever.

I was just as pleased with soprano Erika Grimaldi (although I haven't been able to find a photo I liked enough to steal use). I don't believe I knew of her before, but as I often say when I hear a singer I like, I want to hear her much more. She had power and tenderness, earthy desperation an heavenly float when called for. Of course, in this work any soprano is judged by her "Libera me". (Unfair to judge any singer by just one aria or movement, but I am guilty, and there you are.) Again, Ms. Grimaldi did not disappoint. Hearing this lovely woman was a pleasure, although sometimes her face belied less peace than one would wish.  

Samir Pirgu
Photo:  Pierre Monderau for Opera News
Handsome Albanian tenor Samir Pirgu was pleasing in his role, both in ensemble passages and in his aria "Ingemisco".  I had heard this man's name before, and I had seen YouTube videos, but nothing compared to his beautiful singing in this performance. I highly recommend seeking him out on YouTube, recordings, and in live performance.

Bass Kihwan Sim was quite good in most parts of the bass soloist role.  What is it about "Mors stupedit"? If a bass ends that section in tune with the orchestra it's such a surprise one wonders whether he's done something wrong. No such cause for wondering in this case, but I have observed this transgression so often that I take it into account. Everything else was very well done. This fellow has a beautiful voice and uses it skillfully. 

Overall I call this a fine performance. Again I give praise to the chorus and orchestra. I highly recommend seeking it out.

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