Thursday, November 25, 2021

Another Verdi Requiem

I love to write about the Verdi Requiem.  I could do it all day long.  A few years ago I started a project I intended to be Ten Days, Ten Verdi Requiems.  I couldn't complete it, because the work is just so overwhelming at times.  Plus, you know, life and stuff.

Gustavo Dudamel
Photo:  Tristram Kenton for The Guardian
I happened upon this 2013 performance, which I did not know, with great delight.  This was the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, with the Los Angeles Master Chorale (under Grant Gerson), at the Hollywood Bowl. I can only say that I have found a new performance that ranks high among all of those recorded performances I know.

I have often written that I most often notice a conductor when something has gone amiss. Most of the time I expect a conductor to know what he's doing. In this case, nothing went amiss. I appreciated the final result in the performance. Not every conductor makes the same phrasing choices, but that is sometimes where the interest lies, no? I quite appreciated the stately and reverent tempi Mr. Dudamel chose for some of the contrapuntal sections, as opposed to the frenzied tempi one sometimes hears. I have no complaints with the LA Phil or with Mr. Dudamel, and by golly, I can not find a single reason to complain about the LA Master Chorale. 

The quartet was almost the quartet of dreams. I might hesitate to cast Vittorio Grigolo in the tenor role, but he did indeed give a lovely performance.  Keep in mind the first Verdi Requiem I ever heard boasted Placido Domingo in the tenor role, so I usually appreciate a tenor voice of more size and warmth. Mr. Grigolo, however, allayed all my fears, and gave a fine performance. He even had a trill when required. 

I had seen Michelle De Young in Philadelphia as Eboli. I was told she was ill at the time, so I did not think it kind or professional to assess her vocal accomplishments in that performance, although I did hear pleasing sounds and was impressed by her commitment to the role regardless of vocal state in the moment. In this Verdi Requiem performance, we heard great vocal skill and accomplishment and witnessed great commitment to the Requiem text. I have more than once stated that "Liber scriptus" should part one's hair, and in this case Ms. De Young did not disappoint. She also gave an admirable performance in "Lux aeterna", a section that I have seen cause very highly skilled and accomplished mezzos panic. 

Ildebrando D'Archangelo was the bass of dreams. I have before written that it is so unusual when "Mors stupebit" ends in tune that it sounds wrong when it happens. It happened here, but did not sound wrong. His "Confutatis" was spell-binding, and his ensemble work in trios and quartets was beyond reproach. He might be my favorite soloist in this quartet. Even though he's a bass.

Juliana Di Giacomo was the soprano. I quite loved watching and hearing her. Every soprano is judged by the "Libera me" when she assays the Verdi Requiem, and I must say she did quite well. She had power, she had legato, she had a floating sound in her high voice when required. The "Requiem aeternam" section of "Libera me" was heavenly. In those sections when Ms. Di Giacomo and Ms. De Young sang duets, I was completely entranced. One often approaches "Agnus Dei" wondering whether these soloists are equal to the task, and after a moment, I had no fear.  Their "Recordare" also was amazing.

In sum, I think I must come back to this performance often. I love many performances of Verdi Requiem, and there are some I love less.  As I mention, this will rank high on my list. 

No comments: