Sunday, 18 April 2010

Singapore Symphony Chorus 30th Anniversary Concert: Verdi's Requiem / Review

Singapore Symphony Orchestra & Choruses
Lim Yau, Conductor
Esplanade Concert Hall
Saturday (17 April 2010)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 19 April 2010.

The Singapore Symphony Chorus (SSC) has been the mainstay of symphonic choral activity in Singapore for the last thirty years. Its 30th anniversary this year was commemorated by a magnificent performance of Verdi’s Requiem conducted by its longtime Music Director Master Lim Yau.

It is true that SSC seldom performs on its own since the advent of Esplanade in 2003. For most of its concerts barring an odd Messiah, it has been augmented by three other choirs: the Hallelujah Chorus, Singapore Bible College Chorale and Philharmonic Chamber Choir. However the mission remains the same, that is to perform the great choral works at the highest possible level.

The maturity of this super-chorus was immediately apparent in the ethereal opening Requiem aeternam. Over hushed strings, the subtleness of the choral entry was matched by its excellent diction and enunciation. Every word, and every phrase could be discerned with crystalline clarity, a mark of superb discipline and control.

Then came the shock and awe of the Dies Irae. Seldom has the hall been rocked by such vocal vehemence, with Quantus tremor spat out in a potent mix of sulphur and venom. No less spectacular were the fanfares of Tuba mirum, where off-stage brass issued an antiphonal call for the final judgment of the dead. Verdi envisioned earth-shaking effects, and these were delivered right here on a platter.

A magnificent view of the Esplanade stage and gallery
following the conclusion of Verdi's Requiem.
The quartet of soloists was good, with a particular standout in the young Russian bass Alexander Vinogradov. His deep and booming sonority was surprising for his relatively small frame, with Mors stupebit and further solos the genuine voice of Doom. Also fine was German mezzo-soprano Simone Schroder whose Recordare was a model of smoothness and supplication.

The tenor Dominic Natoli sounded restricted in their company, and sometimes strained in the higher notes. Soprano Soojin Moon exercised much flexibility throughout, but while achieving gravitas in the final Libera me came off somewhat lightweight.

In this chorus-dominated work, true joy burst forth in the fugue of the Sanctus, and with each outburst of the Dies Irae, tension remained high. By the final fugue, one is left numbed and awestruck as the gates of Heaven and Hell open to greet its denizens. Eternal peace or damnation? If one is kept guessing, Verdi’s musical message had been more than well conveyed. Bravissimo, SSC and SSO.
The SSC "Three Tenors" reunited:
Sherman "Bhaskarotti", Simon "Ongrreras" & Cheong "Lipsingo"
(Actually, Simon is the only tenor.)

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