War Requiem

The War Requiem is a requiem composed by Benjamin Britten for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral on May 30 1962 following its destruction during World War II.

The War Requiem was written for soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, choir, boys' choir, organ, and two orchestras (one full orchestra and one chamber orchestra). These musical forces are divided into three groups that alternate with each other throughout the piece. The soprano soloist and choir are accompanied by the full orchestra and the boys' choir is accompanied by the organ. Between them the soprano and choirs sing the traditional Latin requiem text. Interspersed throughout, the tenor and baritone sing poems by Wilfred Owen, accompanied by the chamber orchestra. The different combinations do not join together until the very end, when the tenor and baritone sing the final line of Owen's poem Strange Meeting ("Let us sleep now...") as the soprano and choirs finish the requiem.

Britten, who had been a staunch pacifist during the war, chose several poems by Owen, an English soldier and war poet who had been killed near the close of World War I, as a contrast with the Latin liturgy. The overall effect is sombre and Britten presents war as both devastating and futile.

For the opening performance, it was intended that the soloists should be Galina Vishnevskaya (a Russian), Peter Pears (an Englishman) and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (a German), to demonstrate a spirit of unity. Unfortunately the USSR did not permit Vishnevskaya to travel to Coventry for the event and, at short notice, she was replaced by Heather Harper.

A famous recording, featuring Vishnevskaya, Fischer-Dieskau and Pears, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Britten, was produced in 1963. Another recording, featuring Elisabeth Sderstrm, Robert Tear and Thomas Allen, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle is available.

The Dutch premiere took place during the Holland Festival, in 1964. The Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Groot Omroepkoor were conducted by Bernard Haitink; the chamber orchesta (consisting of Concertgebouw Orchestra instrumentalists) by Britten himself. The soloists were Vishnevskaya, Fischer-Dieskau and Pears, in their first public performance together.

An interpretation of the work was performed by the English Chamber Choir at Your Country Needs You, an evening of voices in opposition to war organised by The Crass Collective in November 2002.

External link

ja:戦争レクイエム

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