After the last year’s enthusiastically received performance, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, a legend of conducting, returns to the festival to conduct the final concert with one of the greatest oratorio works in the history – Messa da Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi. The Maestro will appear with his remarkable ensembles: Monteverdi Choir and Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.
The Requiem was composed in 1874, and in it we can admire Verdi’s theatrical and psychological genius, unhindered by operatic conventions. Verdi was the author of 30 stage works, and he had mastered the art of building tension and moving audiences to tears with his music. However, his funeral mass is not another momentous composition that immediately gained popularity. It is his testimony to his authentic experiences – the great composer was mourning a friend – and his deeply personal reflection on the finiteness of life.
The piece, full of operatic dramaturgy, breath-taking choral parts, impressive orchestra sound and brilliant solo arias, was performed for the first time on the anniversary of Alessandro Manzoni’s death, a writer mourned by the entire Italian nation. The most popular and powerful fragment of this masterpiece is Dies Irae – a description of the “day of the anger”, that is, the final judgement. It hits the listener as a bolt out of the blue. The melodic motives in this dominating part are present in the most important fragments of the entire mass. Lacrimosa sounds like real sobbing, the angel-like Lux Aeterna lifts the spirits and gives the promise of eternal life (although at the beginning the orchestra accompanying the soloists sounds like a funeral marching band). The composition ends on a positive note: the soprano performs a silent prayer Libera Me, Domine, de Morte Aeterna (“Free me, Lord, from the eternal death”). It is the soloists who relay the large emotional load with the lyrics, and the orchestra takes care of the dramatic effects, such as four additional trumpeters bringing to mind the trumpets of the Apocalypse.
This work, intense in the emotional layering, is an ideal piece for Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, praised for its expressiveness and stylistic faithfulness to the aesthetics of the period. This ensemble was founded by Gardiner 30 years ago, in order to approach the 19th and 20th century repertoire with curiosity and respect appropriate for the early music performers. And the Monteverdi Choir has been accompanying Gardiner since the beginning of his career, that is from the 1960s, a ground-breaking time in the field of early music performance. It is indisputably one of the best choirs in the world. Both ensembles enjoy the patronage of the Prince of Wales.
Verdi’s Requiem, loved by the audience for its majestic nature, in the masterful performance by Gardiner and his ensembles, is a dream come true for music lovers. The final concert of this year’s festival edition, following the best traditions of Wratislavia Cantans, will not go by unnoticed.