Review: Medici Choir and Portsmouth Choral Union combine for Verdi Requiem at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square

December 2nd 2023

Verdi’s Requiem has frequently been described as his best opera, and it certainly displays all the features that contributed to his enormous success as an operatic composer. It is dramatic, gentle and reflective when needed and full of wonderful melodies and glorious vocal writing – for both soloists and chorus.

When two different choirs join together to sing this, or any other large-scale work for that matter, the result, whilst often impressive in terms of sheer volume, can be less successful in terms of musical intent.  That was certainly not the case in this evening’s performance. In fact, much of the success, of this performance (and it was very good indeed) was due to both choirs having the same conductor. David Gostick had clearly prepared both groups very well and ensured that there was unity of purpose in the musical approach to this imposing work. He directed the large forces with unfussy clarity.

Dynamic contrasts were wide and impressive, from the hushed opening Requiem Aeternam to the thundering Tuba Mirum and terrifying Dies Irae. Impressive too was the pitching of the two unaccompanied sections: Te Decet Hymnus and (from the final movement) Requiem Aeternam.  The two demanding fugal movements (Sanctus and in the Libera Me) were attacked with gusto and confidence. Of the four soloists, the men were the most successful, with Gareth Morris (Tenor) delivering an eloquent Ingemisco followed by bass Edwin Kaye’s dramatic Confutatis. Helen Dix (soprano) floated some lovely soft high notes and also displayed an impressive high C, she did however, seem to miss the drama of the chant-like opening of Libera Me and didn’t seem comfortable in the most low-lying passages. Carolyn Dobbin (mezzo), possesses an attractive voice, but was rhythmically rather loose and occasionally at variance with the printed score.

The singers were fortunate to be accompanied by the renowned Brandenburg Sinfonia who played with both vigour and restraint – as and when required, without ever overpowering the singers. The interplay between off-stage and orchestral brass in the Tuba Mirum was particularly thrilling.

This concert was enthusiastically received by a capacity audience and the standing ovation was well deserved.

David Holmes

PCU web page

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