Chorale offers intense version of `Requiem'

Concert: The Annapolis group's season opener creates a sound that leaves some weak in the knees.


Arundel Live

October 14, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Music director J. Ernest Green and the Annapolis Chorale opened this season's classical concert series with Giuseppe Verdi's "Requiem" Saturday at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts.

An expanded Annapolis Chamber Orchestra, the 175-person chorus and four superb soloists created a grand-scale sound, raising the bar for other Hall-based musical groups. The Annapolis Chorale revealed such operatic intensity in Verdi's music that many were left weak-kneed at the conclusion.

Green, the chorus, the soloists and orchestra relished Verdi's challenging material - and the challenge of matching each other. Fortissimo sections with chorus, soloists and orchestra sharply contrasted with soft a cappella voices.

From its first notes, the chorale's singing made a statement. The strings were alternately lush and frantic. The brass was awesome, and the timpanist a fervid pacesetter.

Green found excellent soloists to join the effort. Soprano Leah Anne Myers displayed a voice of rare beauty, easily scaling and sustaining vocal heights along with an ability to float ethereal-sounding notes. Her closing "Libera me" was superb.

Mezzo-soprano Jenni Lynn Bank possesses a lovely voice of striking range and enough power to project over the orchestra. Her dramatic voice indicates a limitless future for the 20-year-old singer.

John Myers has a ringing tenor voice of impressive power that was well displayed in "Ingemisco." Larry Small displayed a bass voice of equal power, drama and endurance.

Often called "the greatest opera Verdi never wrote" in its passion and fervor, "Requiem" reflects a religiosity beyond the traditional Roman Catholic Mass, encompassing the Old Testament, which should be expected from the composer of "Nabucco."

The "Dies irae" (Day of Wrath) is Verdi at his best - dramatic and fearsome with the chorus fortissimo in contest with trumpets and timpani blaring.

The "Tuba mirum" (Day of Judgment) had trumpets blazing from the balcony, with the rest of the brass on stage with the percussion and strings to give the audience the feeling of being in the midst of life's final journey.

Green let a wall of sound emerge, with orchestra and chorus pulling out all the stops, confirming Green's faith in the chorus' ability to be heard.

In the moving "Lacrymosa," the balance was maintained with the voices heard amid the orchestral roar.

The "Offertorium" featured the quartet of soloists singing melodic operatic arias often reminiscent of Aida and La Traviata.

The soloists, singers and orchestra will be difficult to match during Green's 20th year.

There will be a Friends of the Annapolis Chorale Mack Bailey concert Nov. 14. Tickets: 410-266-3631.

The next concert of the regular series will be the Christmas Celebration concert Dec. 10. Tickets: 410-263-1906.

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