Last week, Londoners weren’t expecting the terrifying events which took place at Westminster, leaving five dead and forty injured. Although devastating, the terrorist attack brought thousand of Londoners together, coining the hashtag #wearenotafraid as a positive stance against Islamic terrorist groups.
A year ago, the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) had pre-programmed a concert with French contralto singer and conductor Natalie Stutzmann, including two pieces associated with confronting death – Mozart’s Requiem and Richard Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung – and given the close proximity to such aftermath, Stutzmann introduced the concert with a speech, dedicating the concert to those who lost their lives at Westminster and their families. She said, ‘May their souls find solace and appeasement in this offering.’
This was the first time I had seen Stutzmann perform live, and I found her performance of these pieces fascinating and admirable. Throughout the evening, she seemed at ease and secure. The way I had originally perceived the concert was shifted by the reminder of recent events, which made the experience far more poignant and relative.
Beginning with Strauss’s earlier piece, there were thoughts of the young composer invested in serious interpretations of death and transfiguration. Just as it was imagined, you could hear the dying artist, looking back and reminiscing his past struggles and triumphs embedded in the tone poem’s music.
The LPO opened the piece with warmth and affection. I was completely taken away by the gracious and delicate violin and harp duet which subtlely entered before the louder sections, extracting fear and panic. Listening made the horrific events at Westminster feel more immediate and vivid, yet it was also a reminder of honouring those who had sacrificed their lives to save others, including PC Keith Palmer.
Stutzmann’s story-telling was evocative and crisp here, and the LPO gave a muscular, yet euphoric ending, which concluded with the victory over death. The entire orchestra, strings, woodwinds and brass instruments, played with full force, honing in on tender touches to successfully paint the ‘infinite’ ‘heaven’ that Strauss depicted for the finale of the piece.
— Mary Grace Nguyen (@MaryGNguyen) March 25, 2017
Moving on to Mozart’s Requiem, many will know that Mozart died before completing his valedictory masterpiece, yet his Requiem is nevertheless still potent and powerful. The piece is exemplary of Mozart’s genius and ability to capture despair and darkness, particularly in the passages such as Dies Irae and Rex tremendae, which are often used in TV commercials and Hollywood films.
Kateryna Kasper, Sara Mingardo, Robin Tritschler and Leon Kosavic gave captivating performances for their soloist parts in the Requiem. And the London Philharmonic Choir deserve praise for their hearty and highly spirited performance, fuelled with emotional conviction.
Stutzmann seemed in complete control here. Once a movement had ended, she deliberately chose to stop and wait for a few seconds longer to give the audience and all of the performers the opportunity to pay their respects to those who died on Wednesday. The evening was a momentous occasion. I could not have imagined a more sentimental and dignified concert, commemorating the lives lost at Westminster, than this one.