Saturday, March 12, 2022

Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin

Following this,, here was a Verdi Requiem that came with a quartet of vocal soloists all different to those originally advertised: and They were placed between orchestra and choir, each fine, with Michael Spyres being the pick.

The performance (the second of three) could best be described as devotional. Maybe Daniel Barenboim, his conducting style a mix of doing very little contrasted with sudden animation, with trust in the performers, was consciously taking the opera that is said to be enshrined in this setting well and truly out of the equation. There was drama (if perhaps not enough in the fire, fury and, relatively tepid, bass-drum shots of the ‘Dies irae’), albeit not the sort that could be staged, for it came from within the text and the music itself rather than being applied, and Barenboim had an ear for detail, timbral variety and a wide dynamic range.

Yet, if the ear told a better story than the eye, watching suggested Barenboim seeming to be not fully engaged, sometimes, although he avoided sensationalism and there was throughout the feeling that this great work is about humankind relating to the World and whatever may be next. There were numerous felicities, not least a quiet tenor with oboe moment during the ‘Dies irae’ – exquisite – and cellos had many a lyrical contemplation to communicate. By contrast the ‘Sanctus’ was agile and lucid, with further contrast later though some darkly coloured community singing, then radiant violins, and in the closing stages the soprano’s reiterations of “Libera me” touched the soul. Such incidentals will stay in the mind.

Susanne Bernhard soprano

Marina Prudenskaja mezzo-soprano

Michael Spyres tenor

Tareq Nazmi bass

Rundfunkchor Berlin