Sunday, July 14, 2013

Viva Verdi (RIP)

So, that Verdi Requiem, hey? Having been sung at loudly and gorgeously by four soloists and a massed chorus, as well as orchestra, for over an hour, everything does tend to become a bit numb. Gorgeousness blends into gorgeousness, counterbalanced with the fierceness of the fiery sections, as Verdi demands his full forces let rip in an orchestral orgy of horror at the day of judgement. And yet, so much beauty interspersed.

With the combined forces of the Sydney Symphony and the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, led by David Robertson, it was always going to be a big sound. Adding in three superb singers and you are pretty much bludgeoned into a delicious pulp. This is a good thing.

So, yes, I now can add Erin Wall to my list of Extraordinary Must See Singers. Beautiful, pure, lyric soprano, the sort that makes you go "how is she still singing that, that loudly and sounding pretty, not harsh?" Yes, she is one of those singers. Was it wrong I kept thinking through her singing of things I would love to hear her sing? Pamina and Countess both sit high in my list of things she would be amazing in. That heart breakingly beautiful sound would just leave you haunted in such roles.

So, needless to say she sang well. High notes wafted "up there somewhere" and the ability to go from the quietest pianissimo to her loud fortes without that sense of switching gears that you get with some singers. And such a beautiful sound from top to bottom.

Her mezzo companion was Olesya Petrova, bringing a big creamy sound, well matched to her soprano compatriot. The only time I found myself at all disappointed with her was in the Angus Dei section, when she and Erin sang in octaves. Next to Erin's higher notes, Olesya sounded slightly harsh. Not that she was, just that Erin was singing even more beautifully. It was weird, because the rest of the time, they sounded gorgeous together.  Something about those octaves though, left me thinking why is this not as gorgeous as it should be. Truly odd.

The other superb member of the quartet was Ain Anger, with a fierce bass sound. This is a man clearly used to singing bass villains, and doing it well. Sometimes, I heard a villainous snarl during some of his solo lines and thought, wrong piece for that flourish big guy, but otherwise he was fabulous. A big resonant bass voice who could boom fiercely through the Confutatis section. That it took over from the Ingemisco of John Daszak did seem a little unfair. For both.

To be honest, I was expecting better things from John Daszak. Now, maybe he was having an off night, or the Latin text is something he finds challenging, but I was definitely underwhelmed. Throughout, his voice sounded dryer, less resonant, and basically, tired. Maybe he was. He had sung the night before too (as had the others). But, having said that, all the notes were there, and when he was singing with the others, he blended in beautifully, the sections with him and the bass and the mezzo were just beautiful. I am just very glad the Ingemisco was not at the start, as he had improved by the time he got to that, but it was still not that gorgeous sound we were hoping for.

As for the choruses (for we had two in this), well, lots of sound, and no obvious wrong notes or bad entries. The only criticism I had, was that I would have liked more clarity of diction, but with that many singers, and a big choral concert from them next weekend as well, I can well understand why. That precision requires lots of drilling, and with two big concerts back to back, it does become a challenge to get both up to that standard.

Which of course, leaves David Robertson. For the most part, I liked what he did with his forces. There were a couple of interesting touches to how he shaped sections, noticeably at the end of the Dies Irae sections, where he worked to get an almost bouncy, juddering effect, which worked. My only criticism, would be I would like a touch more savagery and more of a turning on a dime feel to my Verdi. This was sometimes too pretty, when Verdi really comes to life with savagery. But, considering the forces, I suspect he went more for unity, rather than fierce precision.

So, on the whole, a truly fabulous concert. Not perfect but, very very good!

Erin singing a different Verdi, in case you do not know her voice.

And, now that the boffins have done their thing, the entire concert is available for viewing online...

Click here (needs silverlight)

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