The poet Carl Sandburg sagely avowed that “to know silence perfectly is to know music.” What an exquisite juxtaposition…silence and music complement each other flawlessly, as one seems to be perpetually pregnant with the other. In the peaceful realm of silence, there only echoes an intense desire for fulfillment, the longing for completion. What better way to fill the dissonance of silence than with a requiem, a fervent emotional display of unbridled respect for another human being who has embarked upon the next stage of his journey?
Giuseppe Verdi’s greatest ally in the composition of Messa da Requiem was, indeed, silence. It perfectly and brilliantly emphasized the immense depth of his requiem, a glorious tribute to the Italian author, Alessandro Manzoni. But let’s rewind a moment—the crowning glory of this performance was undoubtedly the thrilling hush of the last few moments, when the music abated and Heinz Hall was completely still. The emotional intensity, the lyrical sanctity of the musical journey, was the only thing that could have made this silence so striking. It enabled the dust to settle after the heartrending performance, to allow the spectator to take a final glimpse of the glitter before it eloquently fell to the ground and forever surrendered its sparkle. Everyone around me collectively held their breath and savored the stillness like a piece of Belgian chocolate; it was so very sweet, yet almost tragic when it abated.
I should mention that I am obsessed with all things Catholic. As such, I was absolutely delighted to learn that the PSO would be performing the requiem mass. Some of my most vivid and emotional memories involve Catholic rituals, rosaries and the Ave Maria. Experiencing the PSO’s performance of Verdi’s masterpiece was amazing. (And, might I add, I felt the need to be on my best behavior for once—the audience was crawling with priests.) The Mendelssohn Choir sounded heavenly, and it was truly an awesome performance. Also awesome was the fabulously lovely Christmas tree in the lobby…but then again, I am also obsessed with all things sparkly. The performance of Verdi’s Requiem was a welcomed change from the predictability of weekly church mass. Kudos to Honeck for planning such a brilliant show! And speaking of sparkly, I still have stars in my eyes from the uber-talented soloists. The entire performance was gut-wrenching and visceral, in a “meat-grinder of emotions” sort of way. I am telling you now—never, ever pass on the opportunity to behold a requiem mass. You may require a therapist by the end because the emotionality will overwhelm you…but it is absolutely worth it.