Verdi Requiem – Bolton Victoria Hall – November 23rd 2013
In the world of music, the word 'classic' is not thrown around lightly. It is only after having stood the test of time that pieces of music can claim this title. To the audience, classics are enthralling and exciting. They get stuck on ‘repeat’ in one’s head and call to be heard year after year. To a musician this is also true, but often is enhanced with a dash of terror. After all, precisely because classics are well known, they become even more difficult to perform well.
It is therefore a considerable achievement that the Lancaster Singers’ recent concert brought moments of surprise within a familiar classic. In this anniversary year of Verdi's birth, I had already heard one convincing performance of his classic Requiem abroad. Yet in the hands of the massed choir (Prestbury Choral Society, Lancaster Singers and Preston Cecilian Choral Society), Lancashire Sinfonietta, talented soloists and maestro Marco Fanti, I found myself hearing familiar phrases anew.
It would be possible to speak of isolated accomplishments - the choir's excellent sound quality, the orchestra's nimble treatment of fast passages, the soloists' well-blended harmonies (barring a few errant bars). Yet in the end it was the overall affect that most impressed. The first introduction of the ‘dies irae’ was powerful and confident, with a tension and energy that made me burst into a wide smile. The ensemble also played with an impressive range of colors, and while still more could have been made of the mournful pp sections, the overall palette was very effective. Maestro Marco Fanti, with his contagious energy, was a confident and vibrant leader.
There were, as in most concerts, a few moments that weren’t quite as seamless as intended, but the ensemble never left the audience nervous for long. While I appreciate demonstrations of musical skill, for me music is ultimately about emotional connection and the ability to escape, for a moment, into a new world. Though the musicians assembled in Bolton are not the most technically proficient to have ever performed Verdi’s Requiem, their musicianship and emotional investment was well evidenced and made for a thoroughly enjoyable revisiting of this classic.