Verdi's Requiem BBC Proms

Verdi's Requiem

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Welcome back not Royal Albert Hall for one of the real highlight of


the 2011 Proms season, the extraordinary combination of high


operatic theatricality and deep religious faith that is Verdi's


Verdi himself was here at the Royal Albert Hall for the first London


performance of the Requiem. That was in 1875. The work was only a


year old then and had already proven hugely controversial. There


had been outcry over the theatrical nature of many of the sole lows and


he had to get express permission from the archbishop in order to use


women at the Premier of the St Mark's Cathedral in Milan. He got


his way, but the women had to be hidden, wearing black dresses and


mourning veils not to be too much of a distraction. Tonight's opera


is in the hands of a man who is passionate about opera, Semyon


Bychkov conducts. It is every time we come in contact


with it, it is truly heartbreak. We know quite a few things about Verdi


from his own letters and from the way in which he was remembered by


his wife, for example, and people who came in contact with him. We


know him to be - to have been a man of extraordinary qualities of


character, very straight forward, very honest, a little bit severe


and reserved, fiercely devoted to art, to his country, to life. He


was actually a very rare breed of musician. From a technical point of


view, 380 in the choir tonight, you have the BBC Symphony Orchestra,


four soloists - how do you ensure the balance of the piece works so


in music on such a great scale no detail is lost? You know, all music,


in fact, when it is shared by more than, let's say, one individual,


all music becomes chamber music, what we call - whether it is shared


by two artists or shared by 2,000 artists, the principle is exactly


the same: everyone who is involved needs to have a place for


expression and needs to know what the other colleagues are expressing


at the same time, so at any given time, someone will have to have a


priority, and those priorities are shifting from chier to soloist,


from one soloist to another, from orchestra to the chier, so there is


a permanent, almost like a dialogue that is going on, and that comes


almost from familiarity, and familiarity means time of having


lived with this music. What I am particularly grateful for is what I


deserved during the rehearsal period is that all members of the


choir, all members of the orchestra, have exactly the same commitment to


this music. You know, there is nothing more touching than when


everybody seems to be equally committed in the degree of the work


of art that we must interpret. That does not happen every time. It


happens only in the most extraordinary circumstances. This


music speaks to all, and therefore, you see in the eyes - you see it in


the way in which they enunciate the text, in the way in which they


phrase the music with their violins or trumpets or oboes. It doesn't


really matter because those are just the instruments of expression.


You see it in the human beings, and why do they do that? Because ever


since they first heard it, they were so taken by it, and they


identify so deeply with it, its subject and the man behind it.


Semyon Bychkov talking to me earlier. As always, there are full


details of our programme on the website. There you'll also find the


names of every musician on stage tonight, including our 380-strong


granted chorus. It's actually drawn from three separate choirs, who


have been preparing for months ready for tonight's Prom. We have


been catching up with one of those choirs, the BBC Symphony Orchestra


and its chorus master Stephen Going out on to the stage at the


Royal Albert Hall with that huge number of people, 380 people, it's


just going to be exciting. This is just one of the biggest choral


pieces you can be involved in. It's, for me, his opera that ever was.


All the great Requiems, the Brahms, the Verdis, they only wrote one,


but this is masterpiece. It's everything good about what Verdi


has done. Bychkov is a great stickler for detail, so we went


through it bar by bar, so what he gets will be very much to his


specifications. Semyon Bychkov is very clear in his conducting, in


his great care for detail. I shall be part of a huge force working


under a great conductor in a hall at the Proms. That's what it means


for me. The Verdi Requiem is the Requiem with the most, the most


explosion of emotion. It's very much about how the choir presents


the piece and how the emotion of the piece is visible in the pieces


of the choir that'll have an effect on the audience. After all that


preparation, the moment of truth is near. I have temporarily joined the


extraordinary choir performing tonight, 380-strong, singers from


the BBC National Chorus of Wales, the London Philharmonic Choir and


the BBC Symphony Orchestra joined by 80 musicians from the BBC


Symphony Orchestra to bring us the drama, passion and excitement of


Verdi's Requiem. What an extraordinary place this is to


stand as a performer looking out over the great circle of the Royal


Albert Hall packed to capacity this evening - 6,000 people in here,


1200 plus packing into the arena. The orchestra tuning, so I think


it's time I left the stage and left all of these great professionals to


get on with it. Ladies and gentlemen, have a wonderful evening.


Have a great concert. Stephen Jackson, leader of the


BBC's Symphony Orchestra, taking his position on the stage here at


APPLAUSE And here are the soloists, Mariana


Pencheva, Marina Poplavskaya, Joseph Calleja and Ferruccio


Furianetto, and with them, Semyon Bychkov to conduct our mass choral


forces, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and this Proms performance of


Apology for the loss of subtitles for 5007 seconds


So with an almost whispered prayer that represents an individual human


being terrified and trembling before death, Verdi's Requiem


reaches its conclusion. Semyon Bychkov conducted this Proms


performance here at the Royal Albert Hall, where Verdi himself


conducted the UK Premier 136 years ago.


APPLAUSE I went to watch this performance


from right up high in the gallery of the Royal Albert Hall, and what


an amazing Proms night it's been, this great cathedral of music


filled with something highly operatic, but also deeply religious.


Russian soprano Mariana Pencheva, metzo rope ran know Marina


Poplavskaya, Joseph Calleja and Italian bass Ferruccio Furianetto.


What a cheer for the massed choral forces here at the Royal Albert


Hall tonight - 380 of them who have been preparing and drilling


themselves for months ready for tonight's performance. Chorus


masters on the side of the stage there - Stephen Jackson, BBC


Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Partington of the BBC National


Chorus of Wales and Neville Creed, chorus master of the London


Philharmonic Choir. APPLAUSE


Well, that's it tonight from the Royal Albert Hall. Join us here on


BBC Four on Friday when we'll have the fantastic Spaghetti Western


Orchestra, and then next Sunday another chance to catch the Simon


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