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Verdi Requiem with Kazuki Yamada and the CBSO – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Reviewer: Daniel Hawkins

Conductor: Kazuki Yamada

It’s the Dies Irae that resounds! It can’t be rendered in words, but it’s the one with the whopping great percussion, some soaring, passionate choral work and a banging melody – no horror film or TV commercial in the seventies would have been complete without it. You’d know it if you heard it and it is played at least three times in the programme.

Kazuki Yamada’s stonkingly vibrant musical direction and emotive conducting invoke a stunning rendition of Verdi’s Requiem. Once known as the Manzoni Requiem, Guiseppe Verdi (or in English Joe Green) wrote this in memory of the late novelist, poet and philosopher Alessandro Manzoni, whom he’d admired for many years. In fact, it originally started as a mash-up compilation requiem from various composers for Rossini (The Thieving Magpie) but that version went cello-shaped and Guiseppe – not to one look a trombone in the mouthpiece – reupholstered his Libera Me, gave it a new coating of arpeggios and built the Manzoni Requiem around it.

And that’s what we have before us tonight with four soloists, double choir and orchestra.

And what a night – the trumpets blaze, the clouds tear apart and the heavens and earth fill with the sound of a mighty chorus – and that chorus is the CBSO chorus celebrating its 50th anniversary of marvellous, magical music-making.

This piece is a musical edifice to be conquered by only the most daring of souls prepared to don their oxygen masks and grasp their instruments and we are so glad they do The concentration from both the audience and performers is palpable, not a cough, sneeze or hiccup spoils the night. Everyone is in tune, on message and focused. Not even a ringtone trilled amidst notes.

Soprano Evelina Dobraceva is electrifying, Mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill is both engaging and beguiling, Jose Simerilla Romero is sonorous and endearing and Ashley Riches’ rich bass-baritone completes the quartet.

But the night really belongs to the chorus – the sopranos, altos, tenors and the basses of the CBSO Chorus which – as mentioned earlier – is 50 years old, but with none of them looking a day over 35. Their dedication, their intensity, their joy and their precision make a great evening into an extraordinary one. It is a privilege to be enveloped by their voices.

Symphony Hall is an incredible space and the acoustics are to die for. We would encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in classical musicals to try it. We were enchanted throughout alongside 2000 others.

Try it!

Reviewed on 14 September 2023

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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