VERDI Requiem (Dudamel)
If any Requiem is going to be suitable for performance in the 15,000-seat Hollywood Bowl, then I suppose it’s Verdi’s – famously operatic, by a composer famous for having an ambivalent attitude towards formal religion. And Gustavo Dudamel has gone for a relatively broad, leisurely approach that one suspects offered a big enough picture of the piece for those in the furthest reaches of the venue, audible above the birdlife and cicadas.
A booklet essay talks of his maturation since tackling the piece four years earlier in Oslo (this performance was in fact filmed in 2013) and this manifests itself in a restrained platform manner – a certain stiffness, nervousness even. There’s patience, too, and a sense of searching out the spiritual ahead of the merely dramatic.
The opening Kyrie is steady, the Sanctus deliberate and the ‘Lacrimosa’ actually rather slow. The ‘Dies irae’ is grandly implacable as well as fiery, and there’s a genuinely touching tenderness to the ‘Libera me’, although the fugal section feels a little bit sluggish to me. Those used to Toscanini or, more recently, Muti in this score will find Dudamel short on incisiveness and drive. Adjust your expectations, however, and this is in many ways an impressively cohesive and imposing reading. The same booklet note invokes Karajan, and there are some similarities in terms of tempo, if not yet the older conductor’s iron grip.
Karajan’s famous La Scala film, of course, features a matchless quartet of soloists. Dudamel’s singers are not on that level, but Julia Di Giacomo is technically secure and often moving in the soprano solos and mezzo Michelle DeYoung makes a characteristically impassioned partner for her. Vittorio Grigolo is in very good voice but his delivery is lumpy and overwrought. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo does a good job underpinning it all, but with a voice – more Figaro than Filippo – that can’t quite muster the necessarily sepulchral tone.
The Los Angeles Master Chorale make an impressive sound and the Los Angeles Philharmonic play with luxurious tone – listen out for the fine work from the winds, the bassoons in particular.