Sunday, 9 August 2015

02 August, 2015 Prom 23 Verdi ‘Requiem’ at the Royal Albert Hall ****

Verdi’s Requiem is a work that suffers regularly in the hands of amateur performers No such problems with the highly proficient and professional forces assembled for this Prom. Donald Runnicles is a fine conductor and a great Proms favourite. Fortuitously, not only is he Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra but also General Director of the Deutsche Oper of Berlin. Somewhat surprisingly the budget stretched to importing the sizeable and grandly named Concert Association of the Chorus of the Deutsche Opera and with combined forces who work regularly with Runnicles, it’s not surprising that we were given a stylish and beautifully crafted account of this great work.

Three of the Soloists were making their proms debut. Tenor Yosep Kang took a while to get going, but by and large he and bass Raymond Aceto and soprano Angela Meade acquitted themselves well and must have been inspired by the presence of another Proms favourite, the estimable mezzo Karen Cargill who was, as always, in great voice.

If the musicians gave a top-notch performance, what a pity the same could not be said for the Albert Hall audience. The opening bars of the Requiem should be so pianissimo as to be almost, but not quite, inaudible. The audience took so long to stop fidgeting and settle down that Runnicle’s and the ‘cello’s carefully calibrated opening bars were lost on all but the first few rows. Also, it seems, we must add a new misdemeanour to the perennial crimes of talking, unwrapping sweets, and cell phone distraction – fanning. Whether it be actual fans or programmes pressed into service, the constant flapping in one’s peripheral vision is intensely irritating. 

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