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

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the 2011 Proms season, the extraordinary combination of high

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operatic theatricality and deep religious faith that is Verdi's

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

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

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year old then and had already proven hugely controversial. There

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bychkov conducts. It is every time we come in contact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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expression and needs to know what the other colleagues are expressing

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

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

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

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

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almost from familiarity, and familiarity means time of having

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

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deserved during the rehearsal period is that all members of the

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

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

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

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

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happens only in the most extraordinary circumstances. This

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

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

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

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really matter because those are just the instruments of expression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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extraordinary choir performing tonight, 380-strong, singers from

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

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the BBC Symphony Orchestra joined by 80 musicians from the BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have a great concert. Stephen Jackson, leader of the

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

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APPLAUSE And here are the soloists, Mariana

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Pencheva, Marina Poplavskaya, Joseph Calleja and Ferruccio

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

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forces, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and this Proms performance of

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 5007 seconds

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So with an almost whispered prayer that represents an individual human

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being terrified and trembling before death, Verdi's Requiem

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reaches its conclusion. Semyon Bychkov conducted this Proms

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performance here at the Royal Albert Hall, where Verdi himself

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conducted the UK Premier 136 years ago.

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APPLAUSE I went to watch this performance

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

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

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filled with something highly operatic, but also deeply religious.

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Russian soprano Mariana Pencheva, metzo rope ran know Marina

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Poplavskaya, Joseph Calleja and Italian bass Ferruccio Furianetto.

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

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

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themselves for months ready for tonight's performance. Chorus

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

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Symphony Orchestra, Adrian Partington of the BBC National

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

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Philharmonic Choir. APPLAUSE

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

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

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

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This concert sold out on the first day of booking, but television viewers can take a front row seat for this Proms performance of Verdi's dramatic masterpiece. A choir of 400, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a stellar line-up of soloists are conducted by the legendary Verdi specialist Semyon Bychkov.


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