So, the world failed to end at 6pm on Saturday. But for those who were disappointed, the Birmingham Philharmonic and South West Festival Chorus thoughtfully arranged for it to end at 7.30pm instead – at least, in Verdi’s version.
The BPO has performed with this Bath-based choir for a couple of years now; this performance of Verdi’s Requiem, under regular SWFC conductor Jason Thornton, had the feeling of a well-established musical partnership.
And after a shaky Requiem and Kyrie – those hushed opening phrases proving cruelly taxing for the chorus – the Dies Irae really ignited, with offstage trumpets behind the audience and the full ensemble letting fly with hair-raising bravura. How often does a bass-drum player steal the show quite as flamboyantly as Bryn Bowen did here?
There was never any doubt, however, that Thornton had his forces under tight control. That impression was reinforced as the evening progressed, the balance between chorus and orchestra found its level, and the performance developed from a choral-society workout towards the spiritual music-drama Verdi surely intended.
Soprano Claire Prewer had a lot to do with that; of a strong but miscast quartet of soloists, she alone seemed to feel the work as opera rather than oratorio, furiously spitting out her lines in the Libera Me and ringing brilliantly at the top of each ensemble. Mezzo Charlotte Kitson, tenor Peter Davoren and (particularly) baritone Gavin Carr all sang elegantly and expressively. But when Verdi saw the world end, he surely never expected it to sound quite so…English.
Rating * * *