Monday, June 19, 2006

James Conlon Leads the Verdi Requiem

I've never been a big fan of Verdi, but this past Saturday I heard the performance of the Verdi Requiem that I'd always been waiting for. Impressively, James Conlon conducted the 90 minute concert from memory, firmly in control. That opening pianissimo was done with the unity of purpose that allows 200 musicians to make a softer sound than one person alone could ever achieve.

Besides the always impressive San Francisco Symphony Chorus, we had a powerful quartet of soloists who lifted the level of the performance whenever they sang. The soprano & mezzo were huge-voiced & Wagnerian. The tenor & baritone were commandingly Verdian.

Conlon never let one's attention stray. All the sections were connected & flowed seamlessly together, except for the necessary pause after the Dies Irae. The orchestral textures were always clear, even during the huge climaxes, resulting in a very colorful performance. The approach was more symphonic than operatic, but no less imploring, frightening & thrilling for being so well-proportioned.

At the end of the piece Conlon demonstrated the audience's level of involvement by sustaining our silence with his outstretched left hand for close to a minute. When his arm finally came down, we responded with an immediate standing ovation.

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