Reviewed by Tony Kilgannon
The folks of the 2012 Brott Festival must have gone home very, very pleased on Thursday night, after their season closer at the McIntyre Performing Arts Centre, and they certainly deserved to. Entitled Finale- The Magnificent Masterpiece, it featured the Verdi Requiem in its entirety, with a full orchestra, massed choir of almost eighty singers, and four exquisite soloists.
On the way to the concert, I wondered whether I would have the energy and coordination to appreciate such a huge musical undertaking, even just as a listener! One can’t imagine the talent, the brain-power and the hard work behind the scenes of producing such an event. I’m going to assume that there was magic used in the process, because there was plenty of it evident in the performance. The Requiem is a very BIG piece of music, in every way. It weighs in at about an hour and a half long, and the stage is packed to the brim with enough people and instruments to outgun an artillery unit. But Verdi was a very wise composer- just because he carries the big stick; he doesn’t feel compelled to overuse it. At the heart of the Requiem is the interplay between the four main voices, which are deliciously doled out to us in solo, duet, trio and quartet forms, like jewels in the larger musical setting.
Emilia Boteva (mezzo), Joni Henson (soprano), David Pomeroy (tenor) and Alexandre Sylvestre (baritone) were superb, throughout their various combinations/incarnations. Verdi keeps us interested throughout, always having one more trick up his sleeve. I found that as my ear settled into the sonority of a vocalist, for example, a fresh musical line of strings was bowing its way into my world, under the radar, and that I was already absorbing it before I became fully aware of its presence. Things shifted about that way, moving organically and efficiently, no doubt by design of the composer but signalling the very deft accomplishment of this wonderful N. A. O. and its conductor, Maestro Brott.
An orchestra is an amazingly diverse collection of sonorities and timbres, on its own, and combining it with the voices of four soloists exponentially amplifies the effect. Mixing in an eighty-voice choir of the combined Brott Festival Choir and the Arcady Singers- conducted by Stephane Potvin, had me on the edge of my seat, at times, saturated with the pleasure of it all. There were moments when the massed voices crept in from somewhere behind the music, like a storm coming from a distance, and at other times their raw power was upfront, unleashed and wonderful.
While the drive to the concert was intimidating, the road home was a very satisfied one. We all have our own musical “bucket lists”. I felt that I had discovered a new and important addition to mine, at the same time as fulfilling it. There aren’t many experiences happier than that! This season of the Brott Festival has been a revelation and a joy, and this finale was a stunning pleasure. I look forward to next year.
“Requiem Aeternam indeed!”