Wednesday evening, due to the ingenuity of my husband Peter, he, Sam and I found ourselves sitting on a blanket on the Esplanade smack dab between the Charles River and Storrow Drive waiting for the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, One City Choir and Back Bay Chorale’s Verdi Requiem to begin.http://bbcboston.org/performances/concert1/ As we walked from Arlington Station, across the Arthur Fiedler footbridge, I remembered the first orchestral concert I came to on the Esplanade – July 4th1976 with Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops Bicentennial concert – replete with cannons! Sixteen years old. Over 40 years ago?! https://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/04/us/a-revolution-in-fourth-of-july-concerts-also-started-in-boston.html And now I’m crossing over his bridge.
I listen to the Verdi Requiem every Holy Saturday. Holy Saturday in the catholic tradition is the day between Jesus’ death and resurrection. For me it feels like a cave day. A day to enter a spiritual cave and take stock of what’s inside – what I’d like to leave behind and what I’d like to build on.
However, my main touchstone for the Verdi Requiem is the death of my mom. In my twenties, shortly after she died, I either heard or sang the Verdi Requiem. (At this age with this many pictures stored in my craw I can’t recall which.) I did have the opportunity to sing the Requiem with Seiji Ozawa and the BSO in the early 80s, when I sang alto for the Tanglewood Festival Chorus..
In reading liner notes Wednesday evening I learned Verdi wrote the ‘Libera Me’ for a requiem he charged various composers of the time, along with himself, to write in memory of his close friend and colleague, Gioachino Rossini. Apparently due to unwieldy demands made by Verdi that project never reached fruition. But Verdi did write his ‘Libera Me’ which acted as a catalyst for a full requiem he completed a few years later. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messa_per_Rossini
Every Holy Saturday’s, and this Wednesday evening’s ‘Libera Me’ is the movement I prepare myself to take in all the way through the rest of Verdi’s soulful requiem. Verdi gets death. The ream of emotions that come with the passing of a loved one and the contemplation of our own. The rage, outrage, fear, confusion, disbelief, pleading, acceptance and surrender.
His ‘Libera Me’ (Free Me) begins as a fugue – a sort of round. As it continues to build, the soprano, sung gloriously by Meredith Hansen Wednesday evening, both demands and pleads to the powers that be, in long sweeping sequenced lines, to liberate her. This is the end of the entire requiem.
These lines stretch the very fibers behind my sternum.Tears come to my eyes as I speak this even now. The plea crashes in on my being with all its human helplessness trust and faith – that all that’s in store for us is not lost to nothingness.
Oh how I wish we could release ourselves into that plea as one people and recognize our bondedness in all life means to be human.
Here is the Russia State Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Vandelli. It’s worth a quiet 5 minutes all the way to the end: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLn2pA5b1lM