Actually, with a chorus of smallish size and all-amateur forces except the soloists, this Verdi Requiem has no business to be as good as it is. But there you have it - a beautiful rendition technically, interpretively and spiritually that can hold its own with any other likely to come out of Salt Lake City.
Not too surprising, really, when you remember that Robert Zabriskie is noted for his Verdi Requiems. It's a piece that apparently dwells at the core of his being, and what emerges is inclined to go to the core of the listener. Several times in the past few years he has delivered fine Requiems, but none better than this.Gone are the little careless cutting of corners, the self-indulgent lingering that sometimes mars his operatic conducting. From the first shimmering "Requiem aeternam" one feels extraordinary comprehension and discipline at work. The orchestra is beautifully rehearsed and combines with the singers in one cohesive, soulful unit. The choral blend is exceptional, and balance acceptable; each voice-part is rounded of tone, distinctive of quality, and refined in delivery.
One must note also the capability of orchestral sections, with fine string tone, good bass support and exceptional accuracy and quality from wind instruments throughout. Particularly, the trumpets of the Tuba mirum issue a galvanic call to judgment.
Tempos in this Requiem are generally ideal, and its dynamic shape finely drawn. But beyond mechanics is the understanding displayed by each musician, which results in natural line, fluency, legato and staccato; a living dynamism that flows through the work and conveys its message touchingly.
The solo quartet is likewise exceptional. To a town that knows Harlan Snow mainly as a conductor, his beautifully focused tenor voice, bright and penetrating, comes as a surprise. His "Ingemisco" is solidly secure yet pliantly supplicating, and his every entry registers.
Heidi Sonya Bloyer's lyric voice is at its best, managing the heavy soprano demands without strain, whether putting out loud climaxes or floating pianissimos, and she takes charge of the Libera me with complete finesse. Susan Cook brings a glowing mezzo soprano and impressive control of pianissimo to her solos, and Richard Milius contributes bass solos of warm tone and clear definition.
Much of Verdi's genius in the Requiem is the variety of his solo combinations. While the chorus intones the terrors of the day of wrath or sings hosannahs, the soloists set forth the many treasurable turns of melody and harmony that give new meaning to supplication.
The Ricordare for soprano and mezzo, and their serene Agnus Dei in radiant octaves; soprano, tenor and mezzo in the self-abasing "Quid sum miser," with its surging accents and soaring phrases; the Lacrymosa, with its weeping footfalls; and the showy brilliance of the quartet Domine Jesu, brought to a standstill by the ethereal other-worldliness of the Hostias - each receives its due from four fine soloists imbued with a message.