Verdi Requiem: Richard Blackford's orchestration for two pianos, organ & percussion



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Who would not wish to perform Verdi’s Requiem in the composer’s masterful original orchestration! The astonishing range of orchestral colour, from the moments of high drama to the most tender, give Verdi’s masterpiece its unique power and aura. When David Hill suggested that I create a new orchestration for two pianos, organ and percussion for The Bach Choir, I immediately saw the potential of an orchestration that would have a distinctive sound world of its own, not a watered-down reduction of Verdi’s original. Such an orchestration would also make the work accessible to choirs who either could not afford the full orchestra, or would not have the space to accommodate it. Further discussions with David, who had the previous year commissioned me to write Prelude and Passacaglia for organ solo, gave valuable insights into how the organ could replicate a great range of orchestral colours that would contrast and augment the dynamic brilliance of the pianos and percussion. As work progressed, I found more and more ways of realising Verdi’s intentions with these minimal resources, such as replicating Verdi’s frequent string tremolandos by overlapping the piano tremolos in a way that, rather than cancelling each other out, produce a strange pianistic murmuring. Having six keyboard hands available generally meant that Verdi’s contrapuntal writing, especially in the Sanctus, is fully reproduced, unlike a single piano reduction. The percussion part, by virtue of being one player, requires the player to switch energetically from timpani to bass drum, and reassuringly few notes of the original were sacrificed in the course of doing so. The choral parts remain exactly as in the original, and are replicated from the current Novello vocal score. I am indebted to David Hill for commissioning this arrangement, and for his generous and expert notes and suggestions for the organ part. Richard Blackford 

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