The problem with Verdi’s Requiem is that everyone thinks they know it. We don’t listen attentively to it. We skim our way through it. We miss stuff, making do with recognisable tunes and, sometimes, nauseating melodrama.
Tonight, Noseda engineered an eye-opening alternative for the LSO’s 2016/17 season opener. His take was an agile interpretation that subverted expectations.
Sometimes the strategy risked not quite delivering. The first Dies Irae pushed us to the edge in terms of volume and speed. During the Quid sum miser there were moments when the wind felt slightly out of step; the Domine Jesu felt a little unsettled in places. Similarly the Sanctus saw technical mastery from a chorus which at times seemed underpowered. Might they have felt more supported with a slightly slower tempo?
We didn’t mind, not really. The magic appeared when our assumptions were challenged: those moments when we realised how quickly we had become accustomed to unexpectedly brisk speeds. What at first had seemed reckless quickly felt so familiar we wondered why we hadn’t heard them before. It was these dramatic shifts which breathed new life into the work.
The benefits of an embedded quartet of soloists were most apparent during the Agnus Dei – greater cohesion between soloists and conductor and a closer relationship with the woodwind. With the soloists stood behind the violins, we experienced a far more egalitarian interpretation of Verdi’s technicolor day of judgment.
In the end, Noseda’s plea for deliverance was hard-fought. He exploited the unrelenting doom during the Lux Aeterna by emphasising the pizzicato basses and cello, and bass drum. The return of the Dies Irae – this time even more manic – had a terrifying quality to it.
Ultimately, our salvation came not from the orchestra but from the chorus and soloists combined during the Libera me. It was as though every single one of them were asking for it. Yes, it was hard earned in the end but, more importantly, it left the rest of us wondering whether we’d be quite so committed when our time came.
The opening concert of the LSO’s 2016/17 season was supported by Reignwood.
The event was streamed live on the orchestra’s You Tube channel, is still available here and will be made available on Medici.tv soon.