The major projects he announced at the beginning of his mandate were interesting and moreover the trilogy of Mozart/Da Ponte operas, Beethoven’s Symphonies Cycle and Respighi’s triptych were highly anticipated. Looking back, just as everyone was helpless in the face of the COVID-19 virus, it is unfortunate that many others of his projects did not go as planned.
Mozart “Figaro’s marriage” at the Gyeonggi Arts Center earlier this year was second to none on any stage in the world and the Respighi trilogy, which was performed at the Seoul Arts Center Orchestra Festival will be a long-lasting memory for the Korean audience, same as a performance by Riccardo Muti and the Scala Philharmonic tour in Korea.
Beethoven Symphonies No. 5 and 6 performances, presented at the 2019 New Year’s Concert, were full of novel and ingenious ideas that had never been heard anywhere else. The last program he prepared for Korean fans was Verdi Requiem. It’s a composition to comfort the anxiety caused by the pandemic, wars and economic crisis. The Requiem is a work in which Zanetti could show all of his artistic capability because of its dramatic opera elements. The concert plan was delayed because of the pandemic, so it became Zanetti’s last performance with the GPhil and it turned out to be a perfect fit. It was a pity that he didn’t complete all his plans and it is even more regrettable for the audience that wanted to hear him more.
The Requiem, that begins quietly as if hesitating, creates a somber and solemn mood. Going on the precise performance of the sharps Strings, soon heightened the tension and turned into Zanetti’s unique music. The flow of the music was finely divided into short breaths and subtle variations of rhythm and accents were added to create a three-dimensional effect, which is also the peculiarity of the work.
In the “Dies Irae” Zanetti showed a clear flow of melody with the push and pull of the tempo and the effective control of the Orchestra, even in the explosive sounds intended by the composer. He was also able to create an impressive contrast between the explosive beginning and the mellow music at end of the “Dies Irae”, as well as the sharp contrast between the melodies in “Lux Aeterna”: it was admirable.
The Final “Libera me” was thrilling because of his ever-changing chameleon-like direction. The natural breathing that majestically stretched the final tempo in an instant, leading to the theme of “Dies Irae” with a dramatic twist, was something no one could surpass.
It was touching to see everyone come together for Zanetti’s final performance. In particular, the soloists performed as if they were solo instruments in an orchestra. In the “Mors Stupebit” section of the ”Dies Irae”, the permeating singing of the world-class bass Yeon Kwang-cheol gave a gentle and deep resonance. The “Ingemisco” was excellent in the harmony between the woodwinds and the voice of the Tenor, which can be said to be one of Verdi’s signatures. Zanetti’s relentless left-handed lead in the ensemble was impressive and in the “Offertorio“ the graceful but brilliant silver vibrato of the Concertmaster Chung Hanah and the soloist’s voice blended well together.
The performance ended with a very dramatic Finale “Libera me”. Throughout the performance, one could see and appreciate Zanetti’s work over the past four years. At the very end, Zanetti giving his affection and shaking hands with each member of the Orchestra was more moving than playing any Encore. The audience applauded for long time until the end.
Massimo Zanetti, Music Director of the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra, has left us now but we look forward to him returning soon in some form. Programs such as Mozart’s Requiem, his opera “Così fan tutte” and Mahler Symphony No. 3 are a delight to think about.
I believe that this joyful imagination of mine will soon become a reality.