Verdi was primarily a composer of opera. His Messa da Requiem, first performed in 1874 as a tribute to the late Italian poet and author Alessandro Manzoni, can be heard, to quote conductor Hans von Bülow, as “Oper im Kirchengewande” (“opera in church robes”).

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s principal conductor Asher Fisch is an acclaimed conductor of opera. Even his fine interpretations of romantic orchestral masterworks sound operatically conceived, in terms of their soloistic and concertante characterisations, their narrative thrust and their pronounced drama.

Yet all great artists confound. Verdi is on record as saying his Requiem shouldn’t be too theatrical. And for this Saturday night performance of the Requiem, Fisch – in the effect, if not necessarily the intention – seemed to hear the Requiem as some grand choral symphony.

Asher Fisch

The core of Verdi’s Requiem is the lengthy sequence Dies irae(Day of Wrath – the Day of Judgement). It is effectively bookended by, at the beginning, the Introit(Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine) and Kyrie; and at the sequence’s end, the Offertory, Sanctus, Agnus dei, Lux aeternaand Libera me.

There are a number of settings of the Requiem Mass...