THE VERDI REQUIEM and I go way back. Like all the way back to the first time I heard it performed in Vienna in the 1960s, as a thunderstruck boy of 14. Since coming home to Charleston in the early 1990s, I’ve performed it (as a chorus member) twice with the Charleston Symphony under David Stahl, and once with the Westminster Choir under Joseph Flummerfelt during Spoleto (Alas!—He retires this year as the festival’s Choral Director). I got “thunderstruck” in that one, too—but more literally: standing at stage level in the front row of the choir’s bass section, I was just a few feet away from the bass drum. After three surges through the explosive “Dies Irae” (in which the bass drum figures strongly), my ears rang for a week!
As you may well imagine, this stupendous piece is in my blood. I’ve owned at least a half-dozen recordings of it, several of which I reviewed for American Record Guide. I never, ever get tired of it. So nothing could’ve kept me away from the first of the CSO’s season-ending pair of “special event” performances of this mighty music on Friday at the well-filled Sottile Theatre. And I’m so glad I was there.
Often called Verdi’s “Sacred Opera,” his Requiem—perhaps more political in purpose than sacred—came at a pivotal point in Italian history, serving as a kind of musical capstone to the long and turbulent process of national unification. The Italian peninsula lay in geographic and cultural tatters following the Napoleonic wars, and—under the circumstances—Italy’s military and political liberators (Garibaldi and Mazzini) were in need of cultural reinforcement. It takes more than armed conquest to make a true nation…
View full article by Lindsay Koob on Charleston Today.