Verdi Requiem - Reviews are in!

Type of post: Choir news item
Sub-type: News
Posted By: Joi Demery
Status: Current
Date Posted: Wed, 20 Mar 2024

Bristol Post March 2024



And a view from the audience!

It was an honour to hear Bristol Choral Society last evening at the Bristol Beacon. I went with my wife, also a professional musician, and we were both sure that there would be a special atmosphere, having heard the choir sing Messiah last December. We were not disappointed. (Even though a drenching from just opposite the Beacon caused one to steam a little at the start of the concert.)

To the performance, then. The choir discipline in sits and stands in unison is pleasing, and, as far as I could see, members of the choir were enjoying the atmosphere with a sense of anticipation similar to the audience near us (G24,25 in the stalls).

The orchestral tone and ensemble in the opening movement was delectable, and heralded many riches to come. There is more to say in due course. It may have been just me, but I detected a slight hesitation at the il piĆ¹ piano possibile vocal entry? It is, of course, notoriously difficult, but actually set the bounds for the choral dynamic after a few slight intonation mishits. This, at the start of a long work, is almost inevitable and certainly did not detract in any sense.

As someone who has studied this score in detail from a conducting point of view, and played 1st horn in it on several occasions, I was greatly impressed by many elements of this performance, choir, soloists, and orchestra – but, perhaps particularly, I applaud the choir’s vivacious tone production, its discipline, and especially the fact each time the Dies irae recurred its full, chattering effect was given the vital charge of energy it needs. (Around my wife and me, several audience members jumped – perhaps a banal thing to notice, but to my mind that, amongst other things, shows the whole ensemble’s commitment to Verdi’s operatic vision.) The whole was given the urgency which the music needs.

Turning to the soloists, it would be hard to find a more engaged and engaging quartet. Each voice was distinct in timbre, fluent in diction, and able to articulate both the meaning and the drama of the work. More than this, they were appropriately beguiling as Verdi’s writing moved into the more intimate expressions of the piece.

I have not yet had the pleasure of being on the Beacon stage myself, but from the firm and assured playing of the orchestra I would imagine it to be a very pleasant experience. Although it did not seem to cause the choir too much of a problem, to me the lighting, especially for the back rows of the choir, seemed rather dim and perhaps made reading the score somewhat awkward.

However, it would be hard to find such an accomplished orchestra from a totally scratch combination of players, as is often the case for choral performances – the fact that this orchestra has many players who frequently work together meant that the music was given full range from beguiling delicacy to apocalyptic revelation. All sections of the orchestra participated in this triumph – and, to mention just one instrument, it is not all that often that a gran cassa is quite so sonorous and loud!

To sum up, this was a generous and thrilling concert. We certainly enjoyed it – and appreciated the enthusiasm evident at the end in the choir;  we also felt that the standing ovation for all musicians was thoroughly deserved. A large part of this is that the enthusiasm and joy in singing was so evident. Thank you all, and the two of us look forward to the chance to hear you again!
David Dewar

Click here to see reviews for all Bristol Choral Society Concerts