(Financial Times) — Marek Janowski had big shoes to fill when he stepped up to the podium of the Philharmonie. This Verdi Requiem, which brought together the Berlin Philharmonic and Rundfunkchor Berlin with top soloists from Italy, was originally planned as a guest appearance for Riccardo Chailly, but the conductor cancelled for health reasons. And so Janowski, best known in Berlin for his recently concluded tenure with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester, returned to the Philharmonic for the first time since 1994.
The Requiem thrives on a combination of operatic intensity and spiritual introspection. Verdi’s instrumentation was never more economic: The music plunges into the circles of hell and rises back above the clouds within a few pages, never providing easy answers about life or death. While the evening vacillated between the serenity and commotion that are the score’s extremes, Janowski did not galvanize the performance into a convincing dramatic whole. […]