RPO German Requiem

Schicksalslied, Op.54
Ein deutsches Requiem, Op.45

Barbara Hendricks (soprano)
Thomas Hampson (baritone)

Philharmonia Chorus
Crouch End Festival Chorus

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Daniele Gatti

Reviewed by: Erwin Hösi

Reviewed: 16 March, 2005
Venue: Royal Albert Hall, London

Featuring the likes of Hendricks, Hampson and Gatti, this concert was almost guaranteed to be a memorable event. Especially when reinforced by the nearly symbiotic atmosphere of a venue that seems to have been built in the same spirit: space and vastness opulently rendered. Unfortunately the organisers did not expect to fill a lot of seats, as many patrons had to go without a programme.

The Royal Philharmonic certainly profited from its collaboration with Daniele Gatti. He focused on the poetic, elegiac and sumptuous aspects both of the Song of Destiny and the Requiem. Many of his gestures consisted of acknowledgements and showed him relishing the sleek though forceful sound provided by an orchestra that only on rare occasions showed timing problems between instrumental groups, (probably magnified by the Hall’s generous acoustic).

Operatic grandeur was reached with the two soloists’ performances. Barbara Hendricks, as captivating as ever, seems to have introduced a stronger vibrato into her singing; nonetheless, few singers could perform the Requiem’s soprano aria with such vividness. Thomas Hampson’s contribution was of the most sombre nature; he appeared to be something of a character conjured by Strindberg; as soloist, there was no doubt that this was a Protestant, very 19th-century notion of death that he was dealing with. The utter elegance of both his appearance and performance reinforced the opinion that he is one of the most important baritone voices of our time.

The greatest highlight of the evening, though, was how the combined Philharmonia Chorus and Crouch End Festival Chorus, a sizeable association, still produced a mesmerising pianissimo, and was able to give a transparent realisation of the (excellently enunciated) text.

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