Concert Review - Zubin Mehta and Verdi’s Requiem

The requiem begins with the soft entrance of the cellos and gradually the powerful orchestral forces were unleashed during the “Dies Irae.”

July 14, 2019 21:41
2 minute read.
Concert Review - Zubin Mehta and Verdi’s Requiem

Zubin Mehta and the IPO performing Verdi’s Requiem. (photo credit: ODED ANTMAN)

Zubin Mehta and Verdi’s Requiem
Jerusalem International Convention Center
July 10

Verdi’s Requiem is one of the great icons of Western civilization, and it was fitting and appropriate that Zubin Mehta selected this work for his last concert in Jerusalem as music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO).

Mehta gave a formidable and riveting account of the score. He brought out all of the work’s dazzling and emotional nuances. The large orchestral forces responded to his every gesture. Their playing was exemplary, from the immaculate strings to the glorious woodwind and percussion. Rarely have I heard such clarion playing from the brass section. The orchestra was clearly inspired, cognizant of the fact that this was a special occasion.

The requiem begins with the soft entrance of the cellos and gradually the powerful orchestral forces were unleashed during the “Dies Irae.” With the bass drum and the subsequent off-stage trumpet accompaniment, this is Verdi at his dramatic best. This theme is the foundation of the work and is often repeated.

Ronen Borshevsky, Stanley Sperber and Johanna Soller directed the combined choral forces of the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir, The Jerusalem Academy Chamber Choir and The Munich Bach Choir, respectively. They were indeed a worthy partner in this extraordinary undertaking and acquitted themselves magnificently.

The four soloists were also outstanding. Mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova, who hailed from Russia, was perhaps the most accomplished. She stood out with her shimmering sound and crystalline articulation, most notably in the “Liber scriptus.” Bass Oleg Tsibulko from Moldava brought consummate style and darkly rich colorings to his performance.

American tenor Gregory Kunde gave a remarkable characterization with his sonorous and mellifluous tenor. American soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams easily filled the house with her higher resister. The two female soloists with glorious woodwind accompaniment gave a sublime account of the “Recordare,” one of the quieter more subdued passages of the requiem.

All around, this was an unforgettable evening. However, most of the accolades deservedly went to conductor Zubin Mehta. A thunderous standing ovation from the audience greeted his entrance. He first conducted the IPO in 1961 and was appointed music adviser in 1969, music director in 1977, and music director for life in 1981.

Mehta is a real “mensch,” a true friend of Israel and beloved by the public. In times of war and hardship, Mehta immediately canceled all his overseas commitments and arrived in Israel to lead the orchestra and give moral support. A benchmark of his extraordinary musicianship is the fact that he has earned the esteem of the international musical fraternity. When he opens the next IPO season as guest conductor, because of their reverence for him, eight of the world’s most eminent soloists are coming to Israel specifically to perform a single concert with him.

Israelis in general and music lovers in particular salute you, Zubin Mehta, for the wonderful and memorable music making that you have given us for over half a century. We look forward to more in the future.

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