BWW Review: Midcoast Symphony Presents Stirring VERDI REQUIEM
Music Director Rohan Smith has certainly taken this fine community orchestra to a new level of excellence. This past weekend, joining forces with the Oratorio Chorale, directed by Emily Isaacson, the Vox Nova Chamber Orchestra, directed by Shannon M. Chase, and four guest soloists, the huge ensemble took on the challenge of Giuseppe Verdi's dramatic Requiem and delivered a stirring performance.
Grand in scale and presenting many symphonic and vocal challenges, Verdi's quasi-operatic work is more secular theatre than religious observance, but as such, it is laden with passion, emotion, and intensity. All these qualities were on display in the Midcoast Symphony's performance.
Smith shaped the piece with a firm hand eliciting a propulsive energy from the musicians that was its most persuasive in the big explosive moments. While this work is not noted for its subtlety, there are some exquisite moments of quiet introspection such as the "Hostias" and "Lux aeterna," which the ensemble handled sensitively but without some of the ethereal mystery inherent in the music. The overall texture, color, and precision of playing have increased under his baton. The strings and percussion were outstanding, though at times the woodwinds and brass sounded a little frail. The combined choral groups performed text and music with clarity and fervor and when the more than one-hundred-fifty musicians rose to some of the climactic moments, the effect was viscerally thrilling.
The four guest soloists added to the power of the performance. Soprano Rachele Schmiege possesses an ample, clarion instrument which easily soared over the orchestra and chorus, and while her chest register lacked some depth in "Libera me," she compensated with lovely phrasing and emotional shading. Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Ringle used her lush, richly colored voice to impressive effect and her tone nicely complemented Schmiege's in the soprano-mezzo duets. Kevin Ray's compact tenor acquitted himself honestly in the high tessitura of the tricky "Ingemisco," and also showed himself capable of some lovely lyricism especially in his middle register. Bass Gustav Andreassen used his resonant, cavernous voice with authority and just the right ominous edge.
After a suspended moment of awe-inspired silence at the close of Verdi's monumental work, the virtually full house at the Orion Arts Center in Topsham, ME, rose to its feet in unison and delivered a long-much-deserved ovation.
The Verdi Requiem closes Midcoast Symphony's 2015-2016. For information on next season visit: www.midcoastsymphony.org