Friday, October 21, 2011

Conlon Leads Verdi Requiem

I was at the SF Symphony's Thursday night performance of the Verdi Requiem led by James Conlon, who is a happy replacement for Fabio Luisi, who cancelled to replace James Levine at the Met. The opening section was beautifully soft, the orchestra & chorus barely above a whisper, yet not sounding feeble. During the Kyrie, the building swayed for several seconds. It was a 3.8 earthquake centered in Berkeley. Fortunately everyone stayed calm, though it was scary to see those plates over the orchestra shaking. I suppose it was an apt lead-in to the spectacular Dies Irae that followed!

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky has a big, metallic sound & a vibrating tension in her voice. She was thrilling & urgent. Mezzo Dolora Zajick was stern & authoritative, the support for her chesty voice seeming to start from the center of the Earth. Bass Ain Anger has a deep, sepulchral sound that was appropriate to the music. Tenor Frank Lopardo's voice sounded odd to me all evening. He sounded distinctly different when he was soft versus loud. Sometimes he seemed to sing falsetto or to squeeze the notes out instead of singing.

Maestro Conlon led without a score, & the performance was controlled & proportioned. The thundering climaxes were loud without being noisy. All the movements were connected, except for a pause after the Dies Irae. I liked the taut Sanctus, with its tight articulation & scherzo-like feeling. Maestro Conlon gave a lot of attention to the cellos, who opened both halves of the performance with nicely unified playing. The bassoons' interjections stood out neatly at the beginning of the Libera me. The chorus sounded secure & soft-edged. They sometimes stood & sometimes sat while singing. Overall, the performance had a smooth flow & a blended sound.

Maestro Conlon tried to prolong the silence at the end of the piece by keeping his arm raised, but someone began the applause almost immediately. The audience gave the performers a standing ovation & cheered the chorus in particular.

§ Verdi's Requiem
San Francisco Symphony
San Francisco Symphony Chorus
Ragnar Bohlin, director

Fabio Luisi James Conlon, conductor

Sondra Radvanovsky, soprano
Dolora Zajick, mezzo-soprano
Frank Lopardo, tenor
Ain Anger, bass

Verdi: Requiem

Thu, Oct 20, 2011 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

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