The Gyeonggi Philharmonic’s ‘Verdi Requiem’ performance was held at the Lotte Concert Hall on July 25th.
Long applause and cheers, some spectators stand up and applaud. Everyone seems to know that this performance is the last performance of Massimo Zanetti as music director of the Gyeonggi Philharmonic. Zanetti shakes hands with the orchestra members one by one to say their final goodbyes on stage. This is the scene of the curtain call for the Gyeonggi Philharmonic’s ‘Verdi Requiem’ performance held at the Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul on the 25th.
At a press meeting last week Zanetti repeatedly stated: “Verdi’s Requiem was not chosen as the last work with intentions, I had no intention of ending my tenure with a sad composition.” It was originally scheduled to perform in March 2020, but it was postponed to this year due to the COVID-19 situation, and it became the farewell performance. He also emphasized that “it is a work that is timely in the current crisis situation around the world, such as the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, the ongoing war in Europe, climate change and drought.”
In that context, it seems that Verdi’s Requiem is played more and more often worldwide after Corona 19. Verdi’s requiem is to comfort the fear of death and the pain of loss experienced by the survivors, so there seems to be no music more appropriate than this one. It’s not Zanetti’s intention, but it fits well as a farewell performance from an orchestra he’s been loving for four years. This is also true in the sense that Zanetti, who is well versed in opera, conducts works by Verdi, which have a lot of dramatic elements that are not typical of liturgical music, to the extent that it is called ‘Opera of the Dead’.
The size of the work is considerable: about 200 people including the choirs, orchestra and soloists filled the stage and choir seats. This is the largest requiem concert held in Korea recently.
Soprano Hyun-kyung Son, mezzo-soprano Cristina Melis, tenor Woo-kyung Kim, and bassist Kwang-cheol Yeon, who appeared with Zanetti, sit between the orchestra and the Chorus. The position of the soloists is decided by the conductor according to the structure of the concert hall, the acoustic environment, and the arrangement of instruments. They usually stand in front of the orchestra next to the conductor or sit between the strings and winds.
The choral part was breathtaking. The opening cantata sung by the Choir, followed the string accompaniment that started with the cello’s delicate sighs. Zanetti’s unique flexible gestures and hand gestures controlled their stamina and speed. Strings and chorus perfectly blended into the music.
Following the Kyrie, the signature of this work, ‘DIES IRAE’, explodes. That’s an awesome volume. Usually, a timpani and a bass drum play in Dies Irae, but Zanetti added an extra drum.
The sound of three percussionists striking the timpani and two drums with force opens the door, and the sound of anger emitted by more than 90 people at once shakes the hearts of the music hall and the audience. It has the momentum to blow up the expansive music hall space. Zanetti dominates with his dynamic and detailed movements. The chorus stops all at once and the reverberation is exquisite. I wondered if the value of this day’s performance would be sufficient just to have experienced such a Dias Irae as a live performance.
As always, Zanetti showed off the colorfull side of the orchestra with his left-handed conducting and flexible movements that seemed to dance without a score. As the soprano and chorus singing the last part of ‘LIBERA ME’ together, the chorus of the soprano faded away, and the masterpiece of nearly 90 minutes was completed. As soon as the time for Zanetti to capture the afterglow of the performance is over, the audience’s applause pours out. The curtain call without encore continued for about 10 minutes.
The protagonist of the curtain call is definitely Zanetti. Not only on that day’s performance, but with the Gyeonggi Philharmonic for about 4 years, I couldn’t stop cheering for the music he made. Zanetti, who was reminded of his value, expressed his gratitude to the members, including konzertmeister Chung Hanah, over and over again, and greeted the audience.
Zanetti said that after the concert, he was going to take a break for a while. His next move is curious. At the meeting, Zanetti said, “I’m giving up my position as music director, but I hope to be given the opportunity to perform with the Gyeonggi Philharmonic in the future.”
Hopefuly, the relationship between the Gyeonggi Philharmonic and Zanetti does not end here. I hope that someday we will be able to see Zanetti performing operas such as ‘Così fan tutte’, ‘Macbeth’, and Mahler’s Symphony with the Gyeonggi Philharmonic, which he was planning to perform but got canceled because of Covid19.
Journalist: Song Tae-hyung, Senior Culture Correspondent
“Maestro Zanetti Says Goodbye to Gyeonggi Phil with Verdi Requiem”
Massimo Zanetti took the stage for the last performance at the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra and Lotte Concert Hall on the 25th.
Since September 2018, Zanetti has been the principal conductor of Gyeonggi-phil, and he is evaluated to have raised the level of the orchestra to the next level through his four years of leadership. Despite being mainly known for conducting italian opera, he showed consistent and solid performances in all of Schumann’s and Beethoven Symphonies, Mahler’s 4th Symphony, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto with the next generation of pianists.
Although many performances have been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, under the leadership of Zanetti the Gyeonggi-phil played impressive performances with clear textures and clear rhythms at symphonic music festivals and regular concerts.
Zanetti’s last performance was Verdi’s Requiem. It was originally a program in 2020, but it became his farewell performance as it was postponed in the aftermath of Covid19. Soprano Hyun-kyung Son, mezzo-soprano Christina Melis, tenor Woo-kyung Kim and bass Yeon Kwang-cheol performed as soloists. Goyang City Choir and Winner Opera formed the massive chorus required in the piece.
Verdi’s Requiem was composed in 1874 to commemorate the writer Alessandro Manzoni, a spiritual leader of the Italian independence movement. The 100-minute work went far beyond the scale of the Requiem Mass, which was usually performed as a church liturgy. As you can see from the fact that it required about 100 orchestras and 120 choirs at the time of the premiere, it was for a concert from the beginning, and the singing method of the soloists, the tension between each song, and the relationship between the instrumental and vocal parts are also reminiscent of opera.
Just because it is large and glamorous, it does not mean that the ‘confessional’ aspect of this work is antagonized. Opera was a genre in which Verdi could pour out his sincerity, and the theater was also a place where more people could share their memories of Manzoni.
Verdi brings the personal event of death to the front of the stage with an intense orchestration method, immersing the audience in it, in a very operatic way. However, the four soloists and the chorus make the audience reflect on the coming death and the remaining life by expressing the emotional reaction of each individual facing death.
Zanetti has been sculpting the whole performance with the clear rhythm and unstoppable tempo that we have been appreciating for the past four years. Broadly speaking, the motif of ‘Dias Irae’, which is repeated four times throughout the first and last songs, and serves as a pillar of the work, was well controlled, while revealing a strong dramatic effect. The brass instrument group maintained a clear rhythm, and the percussion instrument also had explosive power.
What was particularly impressive was the flexible change that the orchestra played throughout. Gyeonggi-phil has produced impressive sounds several times, not only in the intense parts played by the entire orchestra, but also in the melodic parts paired with vocal solos. In the lyrical woodwind part of the ‘Recordare’ part, which has a strong confessional character, and the soft string part at the end of the communion song, it also created a magical moment that changed the colors of the orchestra in an instant.
Zanetti managed to organically connect the vocal and choral parts by revitalizing the sound patterns that seemed to be simple ‘accompaniment’ at first glance. It was a performance that tried to bring out the details along with the overall big picture.
Soprano Hyun-Kyung Son gave a good performance overall, Cristina Melis performed the musically demanding mezzo-soprano part brilliantly. Kim Woo-kyung’s lyrical tenor was sparkling, and bass Yeon Gwang-cheol sang a solid performance.
However, the soloist left a bit of a disappointment in the ensemble scene and the unaccompanied passage. Of course, these passages are quite difficult, but if each voice had been woven more densely, a more outstanding dramatic effect would have been delivered.
In addition, the Goyang Municipal Choir and Winner Opera Choir delivered excellent performances with outstanding concentration throughout. Only in one part there was a feeling of a light disconnection in the fast tempo at the beginning of the Sanctus.
The audience gathered at the Lotte Concert Hall watched the maestro’s fingertips for a long time after the music was over. It seemed that he didn’t want to let the moment of his last performance go away. During the curtain call, Zanetti greeted all the members of Gyeonggi-phil who had been together for the past 4 years and shared a beautiful farewell.
What he offered was music, but the audience saw more than music. Four years of devotion, a relationship of trust, the energy of positivity and hope that each other develops. It must have been the footsteps of companionship that Zanetti showed to Gyeonggi-phil and the audience.
Yon Hap News
Journalist: Kim Yong-rae