Review: Verdi's Requiem, Music for Everyone, Albert Hall
Saturday's concert at the Albert Hall was a double celebration. It marked the bi-centenary of the birth of Verdi, and it also put out the flags for the thirtieth anniversary of Music for Everyone – originally Nottingham Choral Trust.
The city has never been lacking in choirs, but the Choral Trust brought something new to the scene. Knowing that many keen singers couldn't get to regular choir practice, director Angela Kay devised concerts based on weekend courses.
And since 1983, the organisation has expanded to include youth choirs, daytime vocal sessions and instrumental training and refresher courses.
Their inaugural concert featured Verdi's Requiem Mass, and it was that masterpiece to which Angela Kay returned at the weekend. With nearly 300 singers and a 60-strong orchestra involved, the strings and trumpets had to be seated at the front of the arena, the guest soloists within feet of the first row of a full house.
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The adjective usually applied to Verdi's Requiem is operatic. This powerful yet sensitive performance made one think afresh. For the writing doesn't show the vocal acrobatics in which Rossini, say, indulged in comparable pieces. Typically, Verdi confirmed his talent for striking melodic and rhythmic hooks, as well as rich harmony and counterpoint. But the basic style remained solemn, the chief musical gesture one of pleading.
Unaccompanied passages stood out.
The famous choral setting of Dies irae – the Day of Wrath – provided the piece's most theatrical element, antiphonal trumpets ringing out from the back of the hall. Executed with the incisiveness of a repeated thunderclap, this music underpinned the spiritual message.
Solo bass Freddie Tong sent a shiver down the spine with his evocation of death confounded. Young Welsh tenor John Pierce waxed eloquent in his avowal of guilt; soprano Eloise Routledge and mezzo Lucinda Stuart-Grant sang vividly and poignantly.
Soft tones were like whispers, beautifully done.
On the podium, Angela Kay combined thirty years of experience with the same fire that originally motivated her. Together with their soloists, Nottingham Festival Chorus and the well focused Concert Orchestra reached the highest artistic goals. But don't take my word for it. Extracts from the course and concert can be seen on BBC TV on February 11, in the regional show Inside Out at 7.30pm.