April 27 2011 12:00 AM

Elaborate MSU Symphony season finale concert honors the venerable Verdi


This isn’t the first time the Michigan State University Symphony Orchestra has performed Giuseppe Verdi’s "Requiem," but music director and conductor Leon Gregorian says the sweeping piece, which deals with the themes of death and rebirth, has enduring appeal.

“It’s important to know that the musical world enjoys a great variety of requiems written by great composers," Gregorian said.

"But I don’t think anything matches this in power and in excitement, or just the presentation itself."

The Saturday concert at the Wharton Center features a chorus of over 200 voices — from the University Chorale, State Singers and the MSU Choral Union — and more than 100 musicians.

Soprano Melanie Helton, mezzo-soprano Molly Fillmore, tenor Richard Fracker and bass Rod Nelman are the soloists.

Verdi wrote "Requiem" in 1874 to honor the poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni, his friend and idol who who had died the previous year.

Gregorian says performing "Requiem" is a challenge and a pleasure.

“The beauty of music is that each time your performance is a little different because you are dealing with human beings," Gregorian said.

"Each time you do it is better than the one before. I would hope this would be the best one I’ve done yet.”

"Requiem" was chosen as the season finale because “it’s one of the greatest requiems that has ever been written,” said David Rayl, director of choral programs at MSU’s College of Music.

“It’s a very exciting and moving work for the chorus to sing and people in the chorus really enjoy singing it because there is a great variety of music.”

Verdi’s ’Requiem’

Michigan State University Symphony Orchestra, University Chorale, State Singers and Choral Union; conducted by Leon Gregorian 8 p.m. Saturday, April 30 $20 adults, $18 seniors, $10 for students with ID (517) 432-2000 (800) WHARTON