Thursday, January 25, 2007

Personal Reflections on Verdi's Requiem

No . . . not my personal reflections on the Verdi, but you may be interested in reading up on how one person named Liam felt about singing this work.

A few excerpts:

I still have chills remembering my very first rehearsal of Requiem, starting with this section. The group with which I first sang this piece was together for only one intense week before the performance. We were 235 voices, but we all had learned the piece before coming together. Like most, I had listened scores of times to recordings of the piece for months beforehand. At the first rehearsal, the conductor gave us background on the piece, explained to us what he was aiming for, and then signaled the accompanist to begin. After 6 bars of intro all the male voices, over 100, sang the one word "Requiem" in such quiet, strong solemnity that I was stunned into awed silence and had to collect myself before being able to continue singing.

And on the Libera Me:

Verdi substantially based this section on a Libera Me written some years before for an unfinished collaborative memorial piece for Rossini. Into it he weaves threads from previous sections and combines them in this final segment. We hear plainchant again. Here’s a reprise of the Dies Irae. He repeats the very first words and melody, “Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.” Sections where the soprano and chorus sing together have elements of sweet sadness similar to what we heard in the Lacrymosa. Then Verdi gives us another fugue, this time not jubilant but more strident and at times almost desperate, begging for liberation from eternal death (“Libera me de morte aeterna”).

Verdi was an admitted agnostic. Nonetheless, to the end of this dramatic masterpiece he alternates between portraying an almost frantic pleading for rescue from damnation and a confident reliance on God’s tender and merciful salvation. He supplies us with no answers, no sunny “Amen” but leaves us to walk away and to supply them each on our own.

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