Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall

Antonin Dvořák is best known for his nine attractive symphonies, his Slavonic Dances, his Cello Concerto and his chamber works: all imbued with the atmosphere of his native Bohemia. However he also wrote ten operas and four large-scale religious works, including the rarely-heard Requiem, which was performed at the Royal Festival Hall yesterday evening by the London Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra under Neeme Järvi.

It was first performed in 1890 to critical acclaim (except from George Bernard Shaw): using a large orchestra, choir, and four soloists and running for some 90 minutes, it inevitably has little of the liveliness and lightness of the more familiar works. The first half is restrained and serious, with a Dies Irae which though less overwhelming than the famous Verdi setting is still dramatic and powerful. The music is lyrical throughout, but carried darkness and the dread of death.

The second part (given here after an interval, though I would have thought it preferable to keep the work continuous) is lighter and fresher in tone, beginning with a complex and uplifting fugue and leading optimistically to a joyful Sanctus and the final acceptance and peace in the Agnus Dei .

In all a work which deserves to be heard more often, and given a committed and involving performance by Järvi and the orchestra.

Posted: Sun - February 8, 2009 at 09:24 AM by Roger Wilmut          



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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM