Tonight’s special concert of Verdi’s Requiem with the Mariinsky under Valery Gergiev was for the benefit of victims of the disaster in Japan.
This was an extremely dramatic operatic reading of the Requiem. This piece is already rather operatic, but tonight it was so expressive that the Mariinsky almost acted it out. The Tschaikowsky Hall was absolutely packed, standing room only, but the orchestra’s sound managed to fill the hall. I suppose that since they are used to playing in an orchestra pit, they know how to project up and out. What I liked about this performance, however, was the way in which Gergiev drew out the woodwinds, who have some fascinating and dramatic parts that often get obscured by the strings and brass. Tonight, I could clearly hear these interior lines.
The soloists all came from the Mariinsky roster. Of them, only Olga Borodina (alto) is internationally known. The other three were the sort of relatively young singers that Gergiev likes to showcase. In terms of drama, stage presence, and beauty of voice, they all matched up to Borodina, particularly Viktoriya Yastrebova (soprano) and Ildar Abdrazakov (bass). The fourth soloist, Sergey Semishkur (tenor) had a very beautiful voice, but came from the Russian school of dramatic tenors that I don’t personally like. In Russia, dramatic tenors tend to have lighter (although not weaker) voices that tend towards the counter-tenor range rather than with supportive lower registers like European dramatic tenors. This is purely a stylistic issue, and he certainly sang beautifully and dramatically. All four easily projected over the orchestra and chorus.
The concert opened with the world premiere of Mourning Music by Feliks Kruglikov, a Russian who defected to the US in 1979 and became Zubin Mehta’s assistant at the New York Philharmonic. The piece was sort of post-Schostakowitschian, although it did not really say anything. Not unpleasant, just uninteresting: had Schostakowitsch lived longer, he would have had something to say.