Chorale presents moving requiem
NEWTOWN — SPECIAL TO THE NEWS—TIMES
It must be said that St. Rose of Lima Church was a fitting and apt
place for the performance of a Requiem. At a time when the church is
in mourning for the recent deaths by terrorists in Spain, the
Chorale, accompanied by its own orchestra of 25 instrumentalists,
gave a performance of Luigi Cherubini's (1760-1842) "Requiem in C
Minor," on Sunday, March 14.
High above the altar was a crucifix, the suffering Jesus,
overlooking those in the totally filled sanctuary, as the Requiem
began. From its mournfully lyrical opening, by the bassoon and
cellos, the "Introitus: Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may
perpetual light shine upon them," unfolded with a sustained and
solemn mood. It seemed reverently apropos. The Chorale entered with
a gentle and exquisite pianissimo. Their control and dynamics proved
exemplary, a high mark of the afternoon's entire performance.
By the third movement, or "Dies Irae," with its opening blast of
brass and resonant sounding gong, evoking the end of the world, the
music aggressively intensified – yet not without prolonged sections
of gentle tenderness. Textually it is the longest movement of the
work, full of pleadings and supplications, laced with vocal and
instrumental surges and attacks of fortissimos and sudden
pianissimos. Even if all the vocal entrances were not razor sharp,
it still requires vocal fortitude as well as plentiful technique to
achieve the many, often abrupt, decrescendos so finely wrought by
Cherubini's Requiem combines all the dramatic flair and harmonic
excitement of an emerging new homophonic style, developing during
the composer's life. Music had formerly been composed and dominated
by strict polyphonic rules (one melody overlapping another, as in a
round). The new style, we now call "Romantic," began to consider the
vertical possibilities (as in a chord or solid mass of sound).
Of course the Requiem still betrayed traces of the old polyphonic
style, as in the section "Offertorium: Domine Jesu," but only to
enhance the composer's larger concept of sound.
The Chorale proved that it is a master ensemble of voices.
They can whisper, they can breeze through the complexities of the
mid-range, and they can soar in the high registers or whatever
tessitura, but always in the service of the music.
The second half of the program was given over to the music of
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), and included several choruses from his
various operas. The Chorale handled these with ease. One not a
chorus, however, was Verdi's setting for the "Lord's Prayer." In
this the singers achieved a remarkable beauty and blending of tone,
with an expressive resonance that appropriately set the mood for
such a religious entreaty.
Of course there was the familiar "Anvil Chorus" from "Il Trovatore,"
complete with clanging hammering (probably a drum stick on a bell!).
The "Triumphal Scene" from "Aida," concluded the afternoon's
performance, and it justly elicited an instant standing ovation.
If a most common observation may be made, the entire performance
demonstrated first-rate singing from a first-rate chorale, with a
first-rate director! What more?
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