Ready for Verdi Requiem Tonight

Tonight is opening night, and it’s not just the chorus that’s excited. I’ve never heard the orchestra stamp their feet in approval at our choral singing except on rare occasions, and certainly never FOUR TIMES during a rehearsal stretch. But they did yesterday, to show just how much of a difference some of Maestro Gatti’s adjustments had created.

Once again, Gatti was very specific in what he wants, both from the orchestra and from us. He fixes things you didn’t know were broken. Everyone around me was raving about his imagery and musicality and how he brings out lines you didn’t know were there. He is extremely deliberate in many of his tempos, sometimes slower than you might expect, but not uncomfortably so. The result is some magical moments–and not just from the powerful fortes.

A few more tricks I captured:

  • He chided all of us (especially tenors, with some of their soaring lines) on occasion for singing “too heroically.” Nothing heroic to see in a requiem mass.
  • The Rex Tremandae now starts strong but then he has us pull back and try to be fearful in our decrescendo.
  • A few times the chorus had this intimate delicate sound but the orchestra was sawing along. They matched our dynamics and tone but not our character. His direction to them? “Play carefully.” They did, and it made a difference. He often points to an instrument as if to say to us “match THAT” or points to us to say the same to the orchestra.
  • For the Lacrymosa, he asked the lower voices to make it very personal with a rubato on the accent. The effect is more profound.
  • We couldn’t get quiet enough for him on the Pie Jesu ending to the 2nd movement. So he asked every other person to hum. Weird but it works.
  • All tremolos are not created equal. He’s asked the strings for variations in speed and openness depending on whether he wants tension, floating, or the glowing light of the lux aeterna.
  • Gatti frequently varies his tempo, almost but not quite melodramatically. Rubato abounds, and we are always looking at him to watch out for sudden accelerations or pauses to heighten the musical moment. It’s never the same tempo; he’s very in the moment. He has pre-inserted some of those, like for the intentionally-not-in-tempo antiphonal trumpets. It’s heavy drama by playing with the listener’s expectations.

The soloists are all good, but the tenor is exceptional. His ingemisco may be my favorite ever. Reviewers may find faults with the others. Maestro is very hands on with their tempo and dynamic balance to keep them unified but expressive. I’ve never heard many of these solo parts sung with such fluid tempi and dynamic range, creating a tenderness where I didn’t know it existed. Likewise the orchestra achieves some great effects–I could just eat up the brass, the bassoon and flute solo moments, and the strings’ consistency.

At the end of today’s rehearsal we were looking at each other saying good lord, that was amazing, can we do it again three times? Some opening nights we will go in a little worried. My worry this time is preserving our voices through all three concerts.

The one thing still missing for me, personally, is that I haven’t invested in the singing emotionally yet. I admit I’ve been keeping that component at a distance to make sure I have the technical down right. I suspect others in the chorus are doing the same. So the moment of truth will be tonight. Can we make every dona eis requiem a pleading prayer? Can we make the king’s majesty fearful and awe inspiring? Can we be terrified? Terrifying? Desperate? Hopeful? At peace? I think the best is yet to come.

One response to “Ready for Verdi Requiem Tonight

  1. Sounds as if this will be one they should record for release on a CD. Definitely looking forward to it.

    I guess one advantage of having it memorized is that you can look at the maestro for all those rubati.

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