It’s forty years since Sir Andrew Davis first conducted the TSO and to celebrate the fact the TSO programmed a run of Verdi Requiems with Sir Andrew conducting. I caught the last performance last night. It’s in some ways a curious piece; very operatic and not especially liturgical but it does have its subtleties; the very quiet opening and the tenor solo Ingemisco for example but there’s also some moments of drama that are far from subtle. The Dies irae is appropriately loud, even terrifying and it’s used as an accent before the Lacrymosa and during the Libera me. It’s quite a compelling 90 minutes or so.
The TSO mustered four very fine soloists last night. Maybe the pick was mezzo Jamie Barton who sang quite beautifully; solo, with the choir and in the ensemble numbers. Her rich tone was lovely to listen to especially when she partnered soprano Amber Wagner. The latter gets some of the most “operatic” vocal music in which she showed considerable agility for a big, dramatic voice. She was also very affecting in the concluding Libera me. I was also impressed with tenor Frank Lopardo, who I had not heard before. He’s not a huge voice but his ability to be heard in a hall capable of swallowing soloists was exemplar. I enjoyed the timbre of his voice, especially in the Ingemisco and was impressed by his ability to float his high notes over the orchestra. Rounding out the quartet was the ever reliable and impressive Eric Owens. He seemed to be holding back on being overdramatic. He sang the Mors stupebit rather beautifully, almost as a meditation.
The orchestra, complete with off stage brass high up at the back of the hall, and choir; the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir were on excellent form. The choir is large and can produce sound ranging from considerable subtlety to the full on power needed to work with the hundred odd musicians, heavy on the brass and drums, in the big climaxes. I imagine there is some danger of this piece becoming chaotic but Sir Andrew, directing in his most energetic fashion, maintained exemplary clarity throughout. The work was given without an interval which added to both the dramatic and liturgical qualities of the piece. All in all rather impressive and very enjoyable.
Photo credits: Malcolm Cook