The majestic marble columns of Westminster Cathedral framed the stage for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem in memory of Richard Fitzgerald and in support of Cancer Research UK. Fitzgerald was the much-admired Stage Manager of the Monteverdi Choir and associated orchestras for many years.
The use of woodwind and brass instruments with which Verdi would have been familiar makes a profound difference to the soundworld of the piece. John Eliot Gardiner positioned trumpets at the front of the stage for the most dramatic moments. The evening was full of operatic contrasts, a choral opening embodying the quietest of pianissimos followed by a ‘Dies irae’ of Biblical proportions.
The soloists were outstanding, Edgaras Montvidas’s opening ‘Kyrie’ was electrifying, his voice charged with energy and pathos, and the reflective ‘Liber scriptus’ was delivered with vocal weight and introspection by Ann Hallenberg, her diction also theatrically superb. The soprano’s duet with the sinuous-sounding bassoon – ‘Quid sum miser’ – was a glorious moment, Corinne Winters’s flexibility was stunning, and Gianluca Buratto delivered a chilling ‘Mors stupebit’.
The balance between chorus, soloists and orchestra was magisterially controlled by Sir John Eliot, the Monteverdi Choir impressing in the ‘Sanctus’ when competing with celestial brass and the acoustic delay with complete professionalism. In the final stages, soloists and chorus alternated to create a dialogue of spiritual and emotional intensity culminating in a return of the shattering ‘Dies irae’ before resolving into a whispered vision of peace: a thrilling and moving memorial to Richard Fitzgerald and all those whose lives have been affected by cancer.