James Conlon conducted a superb Verdi requiem with the SF Symphony five years ago, so we were not particularly surprised he delivered again last night with the same score. Technically, without the score, as he led the proceedings from memory, mouthing every lyric, pirouetting around his quartet of singers to catch his musicians outside of the blind side, almost poking his tenor with his baton in the process. He was a replacement for Fabio Luisi, who is himself replacing James Levine at the Met.
It was again a case of conducting wonder, with a transcendent blend of the singers, the orchestra and the chorus, all united, all on the same page. Conlon switched tempos and dynamics and build from the softest, most delicate to the tender and lyrical to the roaringly loud and powerful, keeping everyone on the edge of their seat. The contrast between the soft cello opening to the wuthering apocalypse of the Dies irae early on in the piece pretty much set the 1 and the 11 of the volume knob that Conlon was turning. And when he got to that 11, brass blazing and singers screaming, it was so powerful the earth shook. Literally. Earthquakes are never welcome, but if they do, 120dB of chorus begging "Lord have mercy upon us" is the appropriate soundtrack.