Are the performers conductor Arie Lipsky, the Ann Arbor Symphony, the University Musical Society Choral Union, and the four first-rate soloists up to the music and the spirit of Verdi's nihilistic Requiem? Under Lipsky, the AASO has become a rarely-less-than-acceptable but also rarely-more-than-creditable ensemble. The last time Lipsky and the AASO tried a work of this scale and scope, they started out weak, got stronger, and faltered once or twice, but ultimately succeeded. Of course, last time the work was Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, a massively affirmative work with a relentlessly positive closing chorale that can redeem a multitude of sins. What will they do with a work just as technically daunting that's also relentlessly negative, a work of screaming sound and howling fury, a work that denies everything, affirms nothing, and hopes only for endless oblivion? The only way to know is to go to Hill Auditorium on Saturday, September 16, and find out.
On a more personal note, the question is, Will Deanna Relyea, the mezzo-soprano whose exquisite performance of "Urlicht" provided comfort and consolation in the midst of the AASO's Resurrection, be up to the fear and horror of "Nil, nil, nil"? Even with her brother, Canadian bass-baritone Gary Relyea, on stage beside her, will she penetrate the darkness?
[Review published September 2006]