Since its start, the Deer Valley Music Festival has always featured a requiem at one of the chamber orchestra concerts. Wednesday, Maurice Durufle's requiem, unquestionably one of the great sacred works of the 20th century, was on the program.
Durufle was a perfectionist, revising his works constantly. The requiem was no exception. There are three versions of the work the original for large orchestra and chorus, a reworking for organ and chorus and, finally, a version for chamber orchestra, organ and small chorus.
It was this latter version, of course, that was performed Wednesday evening. The requiem in this form isn't played as frequently as the original, but this scaled-down version is perhaps musically more satisfying and closer to Durufle's vision of the Latin text.
The music of the requiem is based on Gregorian chant, yet the harmonic language is romantic. And this dichotomy is what gives the work its otherworldly character it's exotic and mysterious as it invokes the ancient chants, yet open and inviting.
With assistant conductor David Cho on the podium in St. Mary's Catholic Church, the requiem received a very expressive and emotionally driven reading that captured the wonderful lyricism of the music while at the same time bringing out the text's inner drama.
Cho is impressive every time he has led the Utah Symphony in a classical program. He is a very talented and musical young conductor. He knows what he wants, and he knows how to get the orchestra to respond.
The Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra and members of the Utah Symphony Chorus (who were prepared for this performance by Melanie Malinka, director of music at the Madeleine Choir School) played and sang the requiem compellingly. The chorus, especially, is to be commended for its smooth, fluid singing that was infused with tender feeling and expressiveness.
Among the members of the orchestra, principal cellist Ryan Selberg played his solo in the "Pie Jesu" exquisitely, adding to the ethereal mood of this section.
On a sour note, however, someone's cell phone with an annoying tune went off and rang for some time in one of the quieter passages of the "Lux aeterna," almost destroying the mood. Why people can't check their phones before a concert and after intermission to see if they're off is baffling. It shows a total lack of respect for the musicians and for the audience.There was one other work on the program. The concert opened with Haydn's early Symphony No. 49 in F minor ("La Passione"). As with the Durufle, Cho elicited a finely nuanced and crafted reading of this brief work that was captivating and appealing in its expressions.