Directed by José Aparicio
St John’s Cathedral, Napier, Friday, 3 August.
Napier Civic Choir
Hawke's Bay Orchestra
Soprano - Lisa Harper-Brown
Mezzo Soprano - Anna Pierard
Tenor - Brad Cooper
Bass - Wade Kernot
Reviewed by Peter Williams
This was a rare opportunity to hear one of the greatest of all choral works. Almost overwhelming in its scale and dramatic impact, the Verdi Requiem is a setting of the Latin Mass for the Dead, a master work in the hands of one of the greatest operatic composers, religious music with a range of choral, instrumental and solo work that is fully operatic in its impact.
While suited to concert rather than liturgical use, the cathedral, with its vast open space and high ceiling, was an ideal venue as the choir, soloists and orchestra combined in a powerful presentation which had the audience enthralled throughout, and on its feet at the end in a rapturous, standing ovation.
Most plaudits however to José Aparicio whose precise direction, control and musicianship, vision and belief in what is possible, emphasized again what many already know, that he is a music treasure in the Hawke’s Bay community.
The choir sang with great confidence – from the sotto voce opening Requiem aeternam to the explosive Dies Irae, the brilliance of the double choir setting of the Sanctus, the final fugue, and much more besides, with magnificent points of climax as they matched the orchestra and soloists throughout the performance.
The four soloists were superb, not only in their solos and ensembles, but also as they combined with each other, and with the choir, in the most dramatic fashion, providing high points in the presentation.
Time and again soprano Lisa Harper-Brown’s voice soared effortlessly above the choir with a spectacular sustained top C in the Libera me, and combined beautifully with the darker colour of Anna Pierard’s voice in the Recordare, with this same quality shining through in Pierard’s poignant solo, Liber scriptus.
Tenor Brad Cooper and bass Wade Kernot complemented each other perfectly in the opening phrases of the Kyrie Eleison and impressed with the expressiveness of their solos in the Ingemisco and the Confutatis.
The seventy plus member orchestra gave a powerful account of Verdi’s expansive score. Maybe at times they were too powerful for the singers but this was of little account. The orchestra was not there just to accompany the singers but was part of the whole package with its contribution to every part of the drama. There were numerous examples of fine solo playing and a range of dynamics, from the gentlest pianissimo to the mighty sound of the eight trumpets in the Tuba mirum.
A performance to remember and treasure, repeated the following Sunday afternoon.