Music review: EIF Closing Concert: Verdi Requiem

Edinburgh International Festival Scotsman review: Closing Concert: Verdi Requiem at the Usher Hall, reviewed by Ken Walton

AT THE end of a Festival in which the best of opera has been in short supply, thank goodness for Verdi’s Requiem, and a performance on Saturday by the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and crack team of soloists under Donald Runnicles, that was every bit the other opera Verdi all but wrote.

The whispered incantations of the opening, the thunderous impact and surround-sound theatre of the extensive Dies Irae with its magical switch to repose in the Lachrymosa (utterly breathtaking in this performance), the crystalline energy and triumphant, helter skelter climax of the Sanctus, and the transcendent resolution of the Liberal me, all played their part in a performance powered as much by Runnicles’ eye-opening attention to detail as his overwhelming vision of the big picture.

And what a cast. Four soloists whose distinctive individuality combined to create explosive drama: the sublime fragility of soprano Erin Wall; the scorchingly rich lower reaches of Scots mezzo soprano Karen Cargill; the soaring lyrical intensity of tenor Brian Hymel; and the dark, solid bass of Eric Owens.

The Festival Chorus played its part with glorious self-belief, accurate and animated, convincingly fearsome, triumphant, or delicate when asked for. Full-blooded playing, too, and sharp delivery from the SSO, whose sensitivity to Runnicles’ whims and gestures added to the fiery spontaneity and unpredictability of a performance whose unquestionable impact proved that music alone has the power to fry the emotions and singe the senses.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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