Music review: RSNO - Verdi Requiem

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I’ve heard many Verdi Requiems. Few, if any, have seemed so true to the nature of the beast as this exceptional performance by the RSNO under Mexican conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto. The RSNO Chorus sounded radically transformed under its new chorusmaster Gregory Batsleer. When did we last hear it sing with such nimble unanimity, such vivid and limitless dynamic range, such clarity of diction, such confidence and engagement? Batsleer has worked a miracle during his short time in charge.

RSNO: Verdi Requiem *****

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

But that was just one part of the winning formula. Prieto’s supreme solo vocal quartet – soprano Evelina Dobračeva, mezzo soprano Elizabeth DeShong, tenor Egaras Montvidas and bass Hanno Müller-Brachmann – were a compelling front line, eschewing the operatic excesses that so often bloat this piece, achieving instead a satisfying balance between cohesive ensemble singing (monumental at times) and individual interaction. There was drama in their delivery, fiery and embracing, De-Shong’s molten lower mezzo register contributing to the most thrilling highlights.

With this to hand, and the RSNO in ultra-responsive form, the cool-headed Prieto moulded a performance that centred on acute sensitivity to the text, defined musical textures and pulsating, energetic thrill generated through the natural expressiveness and perceptive containment of Verdi’s opulent score.

The opening Requiem, addressed with reverential simplicity, established a breathtaking mood; the Dies Irae used pinpoint rhythmic precision as its key driving factor; the Sanctus was a triumph of focused vitality. It was like viewing a reconditioned old master, cleaned up to reveal its original brilliance.