Leeds Town Hall, Saturday 20th May 2017:
Well over 300 singers and musicians were involved in this exhilarating performance of Verdi’s Requiem given as the grand finale to the 2016-17 Leeds International Orchestral Season.
Conductor David Hill directed with an unerring sense of pace and balance the combined forces of Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, Leeds Festival Chorus and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Verdi’s intensely theatrical setting ranges from the exquisite, hushed opening Requiem aeternam (Rest eternal grant them) to the ferocity of the Dies irae (Day of wrath). This is some of the loudest music ever composed for church or concert hall. Verdi’s consummate instrumental and vocal writing requires the full orchestra complete with a thunderous bass drum (known as a Verdi drum) and a large chorus singing at full throttle. In the awesome Tuba mirum (wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth) the antiphonal effect of eight trumpets – four of them placed in the balcony towards the back of the auditorium – announces one of the most thrilling moments in all music. David Hill’s careful delineation of textures and the crystal clear articulation of the choirs allowed every word to cut through the orchestral tumult – a striking contrast with wonderfully light and airy choral textures in the Sanctus, and the softly intoned Libera me (Deliver me, O Lord).
The finely matched soloists included Philippa Boyle – a gleaming soprano with an unwavering higher register, and mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston whose expressive voice has a rich contralto quality. Italianate tenor Peter Auty’s slight vocal flutter made the anguish of his Ingemisco (Guilty, now I pour my moaning) seem all the more potent. True Verdian bass David Shipley made his Mors stupebit (Death is struck) sound terrifying.
The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s sheen of brilliance – bathed in the great acoustic of Leeds Town Hall – underpinned an unforgettable account of Verdi’s monumental work.
Wharfedale Observer, 23rd May 2017