Monday, June 18, 2012

Music Monday: Verdi's Requiem

So, I was trying to figure out a weekly feature I could do on this blog. I know of a couple people who do Wordless Wednesday, but the idea of me being "wordless" was just a little too ridiculous.

But it got me thinking. When it comes to expressing oneself without words, visual media is not the first place my mind goes. My first thought is, obviously, music. (It's okay if you don't know why that's obvious. Just trust me. It is.)

No, not all music is wordless. My background being choral music, it was pretty rare to perform something without words (though it did happen a couple times). Either way, it sparked my idea: Music Mondays.

Every Monday, I'll share a piece of music I really enjoy. I'll include a YouTube clip, and tell a little about the piece, why I like it, or how I came across it. And this week, I'm kicking things off with Verdi's Requiem.

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Messa da Requiem (1874)
"Libera me"

Ever since I performed it in the spring of 2004, Verdi's Requiem is the first thing that pops into my head when someone asks what's my favorite classical piece (a question that comes up oh so often). And the final movement is basically the Cliff's Notes version of the whole requiem. The whole thing is about an hour and a half long, but I'm just going to focus on the "Libera me."

It starts off with a soprano solo, brings back some of the music from earlier movements (including a gorgeous a cappella section ending on a hauntingly beautiful -- if done correctly -- high B-flat), and then launches into a kick-ass fugue. And the very end -- a final, terrified plea for salvation -- gives me chills pretty much every time I listen to it.

I'm going to share two clips. The first is my favorite overall performance of the ones I found on YouTube, although I'd recommended listening to it without watching the video. First of all, the video is slightly off from the audio, which is annoying. Also, if you're not used to the many faces a classically trained singer can make while performing, it might be a bit distracting. She takes it to the extreme in some spots. Hey, she sounds great, so whatever works. But I'm used to it and I still find it kinda funny to watch.

Anyway, the sound quality is mostly good (though a little fuzzy in the loudest sections . . . maybe I just need better speakers). I love-love-LOVE how the conductor keeps his hand up for about 30 seconds after the piece ends, just to let everyone soak it all in before the applause. The soloist does a good job, but her high B-flat, while not being the worst version I've heard, is definitely not the best either.

And it's mostly for this reason that I'm including the second clip. This one is a truncated version of the piece, sung at Princess Diana's funeral. It starts at the a cappella section, and cuts out most of the fugue. It also uses an organ instead of full orchestra. But, it's worth listening to if only to hear just how beautiful that B-flat is when it's actually sung pianissimo, as Verdi intended. Skip ahead to about 2:40 to hear the spot I'm talking about.

In all fairness, it is HARD to sing that high, that quietly. I know I couldn't do it, at least not without much more training than I have. But I'm especially sensitive to it partly because when I performed this with the Elgin Symphony back in the day, we had two different soloists between the three performances. One sang it BEAUTIFULLY! One belted it out at the top of her lungs.

Thanks for reading my first Music Monday. I'm hoping to not only share a part of my life that I'm passionate about, but also introduce you to music you may be unfamiliar with. Let me know if you've enjoyed it, and let me know if there's something out there you think I should listen to.

No comments:

Post a Comment