Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was an influential composer of the Italian School of Opera. However, in his lifetime and even now, Verdi was seen as catering to the "common folk." To this reporter, this means that the work is more accessible than a lot of "classical music" can be to ordinary people. ICU Choir's concert was certainly accessible and also enjoyable. The Requiem Mass is a liturgical service of the Roman Catholic Church and its theme is a prayer for the souls of the deceased. Verdi's Requiem was composed for a friend of the composer's - Alessandro Manzoni, a poet and novelist.
The work, conducted by Dr Colin Durrant last Friday 17th March, opened with the tranquil and poignant Requiem Aeternam. This built to the familiar, dramatic sound of 'Dies Irae.'
The "Dies Irae", which returns at several points throughout the work, has a title meaning day of wrath and is a Latin Hymn attributed to Thomas of Celano. The choir were particularly fine in the familiar, haunting sound of this movement and their expressive rendition allowed the listener to emphasise with the feeling of loss and sorrow. However, at times during this movement, the orchestra were too loud in relation to the choir. 'Liber Scriptus' by mezzo-soprano soloist Lise Christensen, was truly excellent, really showing the high quality of the guest soloists used by the choir. After several movements by the four soloists, Dionysia-Niovi Klavdianou (soprano) Lise Christensen (mezzo-soprano), Michael Bracegirdle (tenor) and Martin Robson (bass), the choir were heard again in 'Rex Tremendae.' Again, however, the sound of the choir was slightly lost due to the enthusiasm of the orchestra. More soloist performances (interspersed by repeats of the "Dies Irae") followed, the last of which was a bass solo. This was an expressive (although long) performance which led to the 'Lacrymosa" - started by the mezzo-soprano soloist which then develops into a complex, choral movement of great beauty.
''Offertorio", was then performed by the four soloists, including the "Hostias", in which the soprano soloist's strong voice dominated.
There was no interval but there was a slight pause before 'Sanctus.' This movement was an excellent performance of a fugue for double choir, in which the sopranos were, in this reporter's opinion, very impressive.
The choir were again enjoyable in "Agnus Dei." This consists of a theme and variations and is opened by the two female soloists singing a flowing melody an octave apart. The two soloists' voices were not particularly well balanced which at times spoilt this otherwise beautiful movement.
Next was the "Lux Aeterna", which featured three of the soloists: the mezzo-soprano, tenor and bass. However, in this movement, about the perpetual light of the Christian God, it was the orchestra that really shined. They gave a well-interpreted, expressive performance, which was in balance with the soloists.
Lastly was "Libera Me." The soprano's dramatic solo was excellent and again we got to enjoy an expressive blast of, "Dies irae" in a return to the introductory theme from the choir. This led to an almost too cheerful fugue which comes to a solemn conclusion as the soprano solo re-enters in the final couple of lines.
The concert was a solid performance, although it would have been nice to hear more of the choir. Obviously, however, great choral works, such as the Verdi Requiem, are always somewhat soloist heavy and it is nice to see students given the opportunity to perform these works. This reporter strongly recommends trying the next Choir concert if you have not been before. Their next concert is Handel's "Saul" on 9th June 2006, again, in the Great Hall.