Verdi Requiem at the Musikverein: Halloween special

In a rare display of programming wit from the Musikverein, this year you can hear the Verdi Requiem on two fitting dates: Halloween and All Saints’ Day.  (Theologically speaking All Souls’ Day on Tuesday would probably have been most appropriate, but I guess the schedule didn’t allow for that.)  But Daniele Gatti’s unshakable control in last night’s performance didn’t allow for anything spooky.  It was an epic cathedral of a performance, but not a thrills and chills one.

This year for Halloween I went as a Catholic.

Verdi, Requiem.  Musikverein, 31/10/10.  Orchestre Nationale de France and Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien conducted by Daniele Gatti with soloists Krassimira Stoyanova, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Francesco Meli, and Tomasz Konieczny

Daniele Gatti is a micromanager of a conductor, beating subdivisions and keeping a very careful eye on solo sections.  This wasn’t a very spontaneous performance and sometimes lacked momentum and excitement, but it was majestic, monumental, and mmm… awe-inspiring.  It was an interpretation of extremes, beginning almost imperceptibly softly (thanks, Musikverein acoustics!), broken up with exaggerated Luftpausen, and exploding into the louder sections.  Sometimes Gatti’s precision seemed counterproductive, as in the hesitant and oddly shaky fanfare beginning the Tuba mirum.  Tempos were slow with a running time of almost an hour and 35 minutes.  The most exaggerated slowness came in the Dies irae, here not a roller coaster but a monumental block, the wind lines emerging with unusual clarity.  The Orchestre Nationale de France sounded excellent and followed Gatti though all of his precisely planned changes of scenery–much more so than the excellent but enormous and not as subtle Musikverein chorus, which sometimes drowned the orchestra out.

The soloists didn’t blend very well, but since only two of them were the originally scheduled people I suppose you can’t really blame them (why do I have to write something like this for EVERY SINGLE THING that I see?).  Krassimira Stoyanova in the soprano part was the best match for Gatti’s style, singing with elegant control and reserved passion.  She never pushed and sometimes was drowned out by the chorus in the Libera me, but nailed the pppp high B-flat on “Requiem” and sounded generally fabulous.  Marie-Nicole Lemieux gave a more extroverted reading of the mezzo/alto part with a big voice that sounds like a real alto.  She has great low notes, but a very large vibrato.  Francesco Meli, substituting in the tenor part, has a nice Italianate timbre and fine phrasing, but sounded too lyric for this piece with occasionally strained tone and some tremulous piano singing.  Tomasz Koncieczny in the bass part was a very late replacement and sounded solid but not terribly coordinated with the others.

This concert will be repeated tonight.

You may also like