Monday 26 September 2016

Visceral Verdi: Noseda conducts the Requiem with the LSO

London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Verdi Requiem; Erika Grimaldi, Daniela Barcellona, Francesco Meli, Michele Pertusi, London Symphony Orchestra, Gianandrea Noseda; Barbican Hall
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford on Sep 20 2016
Star rating: 4.5

Quite a season opener, Gianandrea Noseda's first concert as the LSO's principal guest conductor

Giandrea Noseda
Giandrea Noseda
The wise programmers at the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) gave the public two chances to hear the opening concert of the 2016/17 season. The first had been live-streamed and this was the second, two days later (Tuesday 20 September 2016) at the Barbican HallGianandrea Noseda conducting the Verdi Requiem with the LSO and London Symphony ChorusErika Grimaldi, Daniela Barcellona, Francesco Meli and Michele Pertusi. We were marking Gianandrea Noseda’s first London appearance as Principal Guest Conductor as well as the 50th anniversary celebrations of the London Symphony Chorus. I think we can safely say it was bound to be An Event.

And so it was. We knew we were going to be in for big sounds, too. The number of acoustic screens on stage was noticeable, and when the four soloists came on and stood upstage right, in front of the timpani and percussion (with acoustic screens behind them), it was clear it wasn’t going to be all about the soloists, as is often the case with the Verdi Requiem.

It started off unbelievably quietly – with a sense of foreboding that made me wonder how many in the audience were hearing the piece for the first time. The chorus, some 130 of them, managed a chilling pianissimo opening with 'Requiem aeternam' (even if there was a ‘luceyyat eis’) growing to a massive ‘Kyrie’. Each of the soloists provided a definite character: portentous bass from Michele Pertusi, pleading tenor from Francesco Meli, soprano Erika Grimaldi a coiled spring and mezzo Daniela Barcellona reminding us that this is, whatever Verdi’s religious views, still a religious text. It has to be said, though, that Barcellona fared least well with this stage setup and the competition with the timps.

The 'Dies Irae' was an explosion, really angry, but also marvellously controlled, with the offstage trumpets on either end of the balcony seeming to start from nowhere and building to the most engulfing – and totally thrilling – ‘Tuba mirum’. We really were in the middle of it all.

It is a truism to say that the Requiem is really an opera, this performance persuaded us otherwise (Meli less so but the other soloists and chorus in spades). We were persuaded that this is about life and death rather than about organised religion. The extremes of mood and dynamic, from a whisper to the terrifying fortissimo to the rather larky 'Sanctus' and the luxurious cello opening to the 'Domine Jesu Christe' – all made for a visceral performance. Quite an opener to the season and to the new era at the LSO.
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) - Messa da Requiem
Gianandrea Noseda – conductor
Erika Grimaldi – soprano
Daniela Barcellona – mezzo-soprano
Francesco Meli – tenor
Michele Pertusi – baritone
London Symphony Orchestra
London Symphony Chorus
Simon Halsey – chorus director

A video of the performance on Sunday 18 September 2016 is available on the website.

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