Subpar Soloists Don't Wreck Verdi's RequiemMay 3, 2014
Verdi's Requiem has now been in Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's repertoire for a full 50 years since they first took it on at Ovens Auditorium in 1964. I've now seen three of CSO's eight performances of this spectacular work, all at Belk Theater, one with Peter McCoppin at the podium in 1998, another with his successor Christof Perick in 2005, and the current revival with Christopher Warren-Green. All three performances featured the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte, which has been merged with CSO since 1993. Between the most recent CSO versions, a quite handsome account was given at Central Piedmont Community College as part of their springtime Sensoria arts festival in 2011. Perhaps that's why the piece lost some of its freshness and excitement for me this time around.
With Warren-Green in command, there was plenty of splendor from both the singers and the orchestra. All evening long, the brass excelled with each onset of the "Dies irae" refrain. Trumpets were imposing in launching the "Tuba mirum" section, the trombones had an implacable grimness in the "Rex tremendae," and timpanist Leonardo Soto invariably added to the thunder. But their collective effect was heightened by Warren-Green's meticulous attention to the softer moments. He wasn't the first to deploy musicians offstage at the Belk to enhance immediacy or achieve a distant sound. McCoppin had trumpeters in the lower box seats to amp up the end of the "Dies irae" section, but I would have needed to attend the post-concert discussion to learn where and when Warren-Green deployed his forces. At the beginning, it seemed like some cellists might have been stowed away somewhere out of view, and between the Offertorium and the Sanctum, a sliver of chorus sounded so soft that I wouldn't be surprised to learn they were also sequestered.
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