Guildhall School Symphony Orchestra plays Verdi’s Requiem

I’m reminded this week – making videos, meeting people, reading and listening – just how time-consuming doing this is.

Not complaining, obviously.

But, in the necessary spirit of efficiency, I’m opting to provide notes about tonight’s Guildhall School performance of Verdi’s Requiem. We’re all of us busy people after all.

Strings

For most of this performance the strings were consistent, reliable, and hard working. Was particularly impressed by the level of commitment between front and back desks. Some beautiful colours in places. Cellos floundered a little in the solo bit. Violas strong.

Chorus

The chorus sounded especially good when singing tutti – a burnished sound that resonated in the chest and at times conveyed an awesome majesty, particularly during the opening of Salva me. Ensemble with orchestra noteworthy during Dona eis requiem. Impressive articulation and beautifully clear diction. Sound ensemble. Exposed voices (tenors/altos) sometimes wavered, nothing for anyone to get unduly worried about.

Woodwind

Woodwind improved as the work progressed. Slight intonation issues in upper woodwind – don’t lose any sleep over it. Impressed with the principal flute and clarinet during with soloist during the Agnus dei. Flute trio divine. Tight ensemble. Touching. Brass (especially off-stage trumpets) spot on. Nice – don’t let it go to your head.

As a whole, the work didn’t hook me in emotionally until the Agnus Dei when there was a palpable sense of release – a gear shift in terms overall emotional clarity. The conclusion of the Lux aeterna was incredibly warm. Libera me packed an emotional punch.

Notes to soloists: you’re all great, obviously. But Susan Bickley, never stop singing, I adore you. Gweneth-Ann Rand, your rapturous tone made you the star of the show. You create a wondrous sound. 

And whilst conductor James Blair’s prompt speeds during the Kyrie left me wanting, his strategy paid off during a satisfyingly pulled-back return of the Requiem aeternam at the conclusion.

Hope, aspiration and eagerness

There were slips in places but that doesn’t really matter. That’s not because we make excuses because these are students (who started term only two weeks ago), but because the hope, aspiration and eagerness on stage translated into a powerful energy that brought this performance alive.

If you didn’t see it on stage (how could you not?) then it was obvious at stage door where the excitement amongst the players spilled onto the street.

If we are to reinforce the importance of music education in this country then we’d do well to start shining a light on those who are in the first throes of furthering theirs.

This was a great moment to start my examination of the next generation’s musical development.

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