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Opera
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Symphony
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Choral and Vocal
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Symphony
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Chamber
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Chamber
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Recital
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SYMPHONY REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Saturday, July 22, 2017
Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Allan Pollack, conductor. Julie Kierstine, soprano;Donna Olson, also; Alex Boyer., tenor; Phil Meyer, bass

Verdi Requiem Performance July 22 in Festival Tent

SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL

by
Saturday, July 22, 2017

We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving rendering of Verdiís 1874 (ďManzoniĒ) Requiem to the delight of an enthusiastic audience of 800 inside the white Tent erected on the spectacular Mendocino bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The laboring oars in this monumental effort were the four featured singers who rose mightily to the occasion. Their solo and ensemble singing were the wind in the sails of Verdiís over-the-top theatrical score which made maximum use of his virtuosity as a writer of dramatic compositions. Operatics aside, the performance avoided bombast with a sensitive reading of dynamic contrast and sonic color. Amazingly, Mr. Pollack was able to keep orchestra, singers and chorus in a wonderful symbiotic balance where each could be heard, no one drowning the others out, even in the busiest sections.

The chorus was particularly well prepared for the long concert. Lyrics were clear and communicative, sections entered appropriately on cue and harmonies and dynamics always delivered to maximize dramatic effect as appropriate. One perhaps not so unusual observation was of a female member singing in one of the menís sections. The voices were clearly put where they were best used. The double chorus had taken the better part of a year to master the complex Requiem and their hard work was rewarded with a mesmerizing performance.

The orchestra itself was full of seasoned and Festival emeritus musicians and their playing was the seabed upon which the entire effort was based. Steady when necessary and full of power and sensuality as needed, the orchestra contributed spectacularly to the musical whole. From the ancient and anchoring Dies Irae to the Tuba Mirum, with its offstage trumpeting (in this case outside the tent) Mr. Pollack managed to bring out the best in all the participants. Pacing was always appropriate and each piece that composed the whole carefully thought out. Mr. Pollackís careful direction and engagement with his performers was apparent.

Julie Kierstine, soprano. Donna Olson, mezzo-soprano. Alex Boyer, tenor, and bass Phil Meyer gave soaring performances that held the audience in hushed awe, and the singing helped navigate the way through Verdiís complex score. Playing lightly off each other at times, and giving full voice to compellingly dramatic sections made the performance one to remember.

The solemnity of a Catholic Requiem Mass can be overwhelming at times and the listener is likely to become reflective and sober in subsequent thoughts. What the composer managed to accomplish is a grand salute to the passing of life, but with a tasteful celebration of life woven into the score. The net result, especially with the high caliber of performance witnessed at the Festivalís closure, provided the audience with a transcendental experience.