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Dance and Music Reviews : Verdi Requiem Without Verdi Voices in Pasadena

When, oh when will choral conductors get the truth about Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem? It’s not a nice, congenial little piece like a Handel Te Deum or a Haydn Missa Brevis that can just be put on any old time a good chorus and orchestra are at hand.

At the core of its being are four great solo parts demanding a quartet of singers capable of the most exalted level of vocal and spiritual artistry. Every measure wants real grandeur, not delusions thereof.

Saturday night in Pasadena Civic Auditorium, conductor John Alexander proved to be like the little boy who put too much food on his plate: his eyes were bigger than his stomach.

Oh, the Valley Master Chorale and Orchestra did consistently strong work, though with Alexander fast was often too fast--as in a “Tuba mirum” that had the trumpets splatting attacks--loud too loud, soft too soft. Nonetheless, both ensembles had the resources to be responsive to direction and to make something meaningfully musical out of that response.

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Only bass Louis Lebherz possessed the vocal substance and technical security to do justice to his part in the quartet. Though Lebherz’s sound is not very alluring, its solidity, especially in the lower range, is a major asset in this music.

Decidedly non-Verdian singers Mary Lou Basaraba (soprano), mezzo-soprano Judith Scott, and tenor Ronald Alexander offered no evidence of suitability for their virtuoso assignments.


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