Vladimir Jurowski's reading of the Verdi Requiem was made for singing – meaning that every phrase, every tempo, every gesture was mindful of how it might be sung. How often we hear the opening of this piece, with its hushed, awed repetitions of "Requiem aeternam", sound static. Jurowski moved it along – there was rhythm in the words, there was fluidity. Jurowski is a classicist at heart and this Requiem was memorable more for the musicality of the direction than the spirituality of the message.
The combined choirs of the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia were impressively well-drilled. The murmuring, chilling basses of the opening might have leaked from the darkest recesses of an Italian cathedral; likewise the attack of "Rex tremendae majestatis", where "the King of dread majesty" could have shaken the very vaults of heaven.
Jurowski's "Dies irae" – lethally measured – made a mighty racket, too, with its clarinet and bassoon solos as telling as the thwacks on the bass drum. But still there was an Englishness about the choral singing that never quite embraced the Italianate colour and phraseology of the writing.
On the first entry of the solo quartet, it was the tenor – Massimo Giordano – who made the strongest impression. But his problem was the transition into head voice: it robbed us of potential beauty. "Hostias" was awkwardly phrased and poorly tuned, because Giordano was struggling to achieve a mezza voce.
The mezzo-soprano, Ildiko Komlosi, was well-matched to the theatrical colorations of the bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto, and sang with real feeling for what is essentially a character voice. How sensitively she scaled down her sound for the "Agnus Dei" when singing in octaves with the soprano, Barbara Frittoli.
Frittoli can always be relied on to make phrases of great beauty. But she failed to lead this quartet, and was present rather than dominant in the great climaxes. It isn't a big voice, so placing the soloists within the orchestra did her no favours in the "Libera me". In the a cappella passage, the floated, high B-flat was just about there, but not for long.
It symbolised a performance that didn't ever quite assume the ascendancy. That unfathomable certain something – mystery, awe, perhaps – was missing. It engaged one's senses, but not a deeper spirituality.Reuse content