We went to a spectacular performance of Verdi's Requiem at Carnegie Hall last night. The Collegiate Chorale was conducted by Daniele Callegari with the New York City Opera Orchestra. The concert was a tribute to Robert Bass, the Chorale’s longtime music director and conductor, who died in August at 55. The soloists are the soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, the mezzo Stephanie Blythe, the tenor Ramón Vargas and the bass Ain Anger.
The ending is distinctive: George Martin, in Verdi, His Life and Times (p.412) discusses the point that Verdi has not written ecclesiastical music. He says:
".... Verdi's final section plunges the singers and audience back into the personal drama as though someone had said the wrong thing and God had suddenly reappeared. The soprano is the soloist, asking to be freed from eternal death (Libera Me), and at the mention of judgment by fire, the Dies Irae begins to build up in the orchestra. Suddenly it bursts out in all its fury, terrifying and awful, and the broken suppliants almost sob their request for peace and light for the dead. But then, as in the Dies Irae section, their thoughts turn to themselves: Libera Me,
Libera Me. .... Libera Me, they sing, calling on the magic of music and words to save them from the terror of the unknown. But magic, even in a group, does not answer an individual's fears. One by one they fall silent, drop their neighbor's hand and peer out into the night, alone.
"Libera me", the soprano pleads alone, "Free me, Lord, from eternal death on that awful day." "Free me", each one breathes. "Free me". .... The audience, whether it intellectually wants to or not, becomes emotionally involved in the sheer rush of sound in the final fugue and, like the chorus and soloists, asks for some sort of emotional release. This Verdi, also quite deliberately, refuses to give it. There is no sudden burst into a sunny amen, no vision of a kind God or promise of intersession; there is only dwindling power and continued uncertainty."