As you know if you read my first blog, Leatherhead Choral Society, in conjunction with our friends from three other choirs, are tackling the choral monument that is Verdi’s Requiem. In further blogs I’ll be talking about all the activities that are going on but first I thought I should set the scene a bit.
If you had looked up Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi on Wikepeida as I just did then you would know he died in 1901 at the age of 88. His first opera (Oberto if you must know) was produced at La Scala when he was 26 and his last opera, (Falstaff) when he was 80. His final composition, the Stabat Mater, (published as one of his late “Four Sacred Pieces”) was written just four years before his death.
His Requiem which luckily for me also gets a page to itself in Wikipedia, was first performed in Milan in May 1874 when Verdi was 61, with the composer himself conducting. So it is a mature, but not a late, work by Verdi’s standards. After several very successful early performances it disappeared from the repertoire until it was revived in the 1903s to emerge as one of the most popular pieces of classical music.
The Requiem lasts about 90 minutes in performance and is usually performed on its own in a concert, which is what we are doing. Its popularity must stem from the glorious melodies, exciting rhythms and the stunningly dramatic nature of the music which make it one of the most operatic pieces of concert music ever written.
One of the problems of performing the work is finding a venue big enough to hold the enormous forces required. Apart from the four soloists and huge choir required it needs 12 woodwind players, 16 brass players, 2 percussionists and as many string players as the conductor can shake his stick at. For this performance are using a slightly reduced orchestration performance version prepared by Ian Bauers. This is partly to cut down on costs and partly so that we can fit all the performers on the stage of our chosen venue, the beautiful GLive in Guildford.
Even with the reduced forces, it’s going to be a snug fit.