I thoroughly enjoyed the closing concert of the Edinburgh Festival on Saturday night, a performance of Verdi's Requiem with Donald Runnicles, the BBC SSO, the fabulous Edinburgh Festival Chorus and a stellar team of soloists. But I came away with the strong feeling it wasn't all it might have been, or indeed, all that I expected.
The chorus lacked a bit of impact (perhaps an extra, reinforcing bass drum for oomph in the Dies Irae - I've seen that done). Certainly this listener neither jumped out of his seat, nor was blown away. Mezzo Karen Cargill was absolutely amazing in the depths she plumbed - I know her, but I didn't know she could sing this low at such power. Soprano Erin Wall was stratospheric, though she couldn't sustain the word "sed", one of the greatest vocal entries ever written. Bass Eric Owens was better at a muttered dramatic line, "Mors Stupebit," than a lyrical line, where he was frankly foggy. Find of the night was American tenor Bryan Hymel, whose floated, transcendent Hostias was not quite the full Nicolai Gedda (no such thing any more, alas) but which almost reached the weightlessness of the stratosphere.
In sum, it was a Verdi Requiem of bits; some excellent bits, but bits none the less. It neither cohered nor amounted to the sum of its parts. I don't want to be the one suggesting there is a perfect way of doing this piece, but if you can't do something that takes it beyond Giulini, it's not quite going to cut the mustard.