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Verdi : Requiem
Blackford orchestration for 2 pianos, organ & percussion

Saturday, 18 November 2023, 19:30 - 22:00
Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, 146 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9BZ

When Gioachino Rossini died in 1868, Verdi suggested that a number of Italian composers should collaborate on a Requiem in Rossini's honor, and began the effort by submitting the conclusion, Libera me. During the next year a Messa per Rossini was compiled by 13 composers, famous at the time, of whom the only one well known today is Verdi himself. The premiere was scheduled for 13 November 1869, the first anniversary of Rossini's death.  However, nine days before the premiere, the organising committee abandoned it and the piece fell into oblivion until 1986, when it was rediscovered by the musicologist David Rosen and the complete Messa per Rossini premiered by Helmuth Rilling in Stuttgart two years later.  In the meantime, Verdi kept toying with his Libera me, frustrated that the combined commemoration of Rossini's life would not be performed in his lifetime.  

On 22 May 1873, the Italian writer and humanist Alessandro Manzoni, whom Verdi had admired all his adult life, died. Upon hearing of his death, Verdi resolved to complete a Requiem—this time entirely of his own writing for Manzoni. Verdi travelled to Paris in June, where he commenced work on the Requiem, giving it the form we know today. It included a revised version of the Libera me originally composed for Rossini.

Richard BlackfordThe fully-orchestrated version commands substantial instrumental & vocal forces and is a barrier for many choirs, not only for cost reasons but also simply for the enormous physical space requirements, restricting available capacity to a limited number of expensive venues.   Recognising this, the Bach Choir under David Hill commissioned composer Richard Blackford (left) to re-work Verdi's Requiem into a reduced-orchestration version that would be much more accessible to a greater number of choirs. Taking a page out of Brahms' 'London' version of his Ein Deutsches Requiem for two pianos, Blackford has produced a very intelligent adaptation also using two pianos but with the addition of organ and percussion.   Every note in Verdi's original score is incorporated in one of the instrumental parts and there are no reductions in any of the vocal lines either, meaning choirs can sing from the existing well-established published choral scores already out there without having to pay for new editions.

See a clip of the Bach Choir during its recording of this adapted version in the same venue in which we will be performing it.

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