Britten's War Requiem
A deeply moving masterpiece. Ronald Corp
The first performance, in 1962 in the new Coventry Cathedral, caused a stir. The Times critic, William Mann, described it as 'so superbly proportioned and calculated, so humiliating and disturbing in effect, in fact so tremendous, that every performance it is given ought to be a momentous occasion.' We are honoured to have been given the unique opportunity to sing this great work on such a momentous date in Britten's own concert hall.
Britten's masterful and emotional score derives its extraordinary power from the combination of the immortal words of the Mass for the Dead with the unforgettable poetry of Wilfred Owen, who wrote, 'My subject is War, and the pity of War. The poetry is in the pity... All a poet can do today is warn.' One of the most moving moments in the work is the enactment of Owen's Strange Meeting, in which two soldiers from the opposing sides, one the slayer of the other, meet beyond death.
In his book Essential Britten, John Bridcut introduces the War Requiem as follows: 'This must be the outstanding piece of twentieth-century choral music, in terms of its ability to communicate with, move and shatter the public, way beyond the normal confines of the concert hall. Its premiere in the new Coventry Cathedral, rising out of the wartime ashes of the old, was a news event. The subsequent recording (issued shortly after the Cuba missiles crisis) sold, amazingly, 200,000 copies in a year, and won three Grammy Awards. Its utterance is direct, in that it speaks forcefully to everyone first time around, yet at the same time complex, in the way it allows repeated fresh discoveries.'
You can listen to War Requiem and read what the Britten-Pears Foundation has to say about the work at the official War Requiem website.