If there are any nay-sayers who still carp at the Verdi Requiem for being too overtly operatic, this was a performance to shake them to their foundations and think again. The music’s carefully crafted expressive balance between life, death and judgement leading to damnation or heavenly peace precisely mirrors the composer’s chosen texts to express the whole gamut of emotions between belief and doubt. The subject matter could hardly be more universal, personal, public or dramatic.

David Hill’s vast choral and conducting experience delivered the Verdian brief with idiomatic, gut-wrenching emotion and contrast. Chorus, soloists, orchestra and audience were collectively galvanised from the hushed opening bars through to the final plea for deliverance. A well-matched quartet of soloists all excelled both individually and in ensemble, riding the orchestra without being overwhelmed. Soprano Miah Persson consistently soared above and delivered the most poignant closing Libera Me. Stepping in at very short-notice Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston was compellingly eloquent at every turn. The plangent intimacy of the Ingemisco was beautifully realised by tenor Brenden Gunnell and the bass James Platt sang with the sonorous gravitas of an Old Testament prophet.

The orchestra was on fire throughout, but not at the expense of some of the more contemplative moments. The Quid Sum Miser in the Dies Irae sequence was distinguished by a wonderfully lyrical solo accompaniment from bassoonist Tammy Thorn, and although only three bars, the closing clarinet solo in the Offertorio brought a heart-stopping and much-needed sigh of consolation before the big choral blaze of the Sanctus. Literally however, one of the most striking performance accolades of the evening has to go to percussionist Matt King. The plan to have two large bass drums face up with one seated player and two beaters for the performance was inspired – a terrifying visual of fire-and-brimstone judgmental wrath as well as a sonic double whammy delivered with perfect synchronisation every time.

Without question, the visionary reach and sincerity of the performance as a whole clearly reached out to the audience with palpable relevance to current events. Collective hearts and minds could almost be heard beating during and after the music.

Ian Julier

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