2012 brings the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Britten‘s War Requiem, one of the most powerful pacifist statements in music. The first performance took place in 1962 in the newly consecrated Coventry Cathedral, built alongside the ruins of the old cathedral, left as a sombre reminder of the wartime bombings. On 30 May 2012, 50 years to the day, Britten‘s masterpiece returns to the cathedral, performed as at the premiere by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and vocal soloists from three once warring nations.
The anniversary performance is conducted by the CBSO‘s Music Director, Andris Nelsons, featuring the Canadian soprano Erin Wall, English tenor Mark Padmore singing the role written for Peter Pears, and German baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann. Choral forces are provided by the CBSO Chorus and Youth Chorus. Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was commissioned to compose a work for the inauguration in 1962 of Coventry’s new cathedral, adjoining the old cathedral that had been bombed and nearly completely destroyed by the German Luftwaffe at the beginning of World War II in November 1940. The commission gave Britten complete freedom to choose the type of music to compose. He conceived of setting the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead interwoven with nine poems by the English poet Wilfred Owen, who had been killed in World War I. It has become one of the defining masterpieces of the twentieth century: a devastating meditation on the pity of war that is every bit as relevant today.
"The light-filled building was used to full effect. The CBSO Youth Chorus was positioned at the high altar beneath Graham Sutherland's Christ in Glory tapestry, all golden section and green resurrection...Padmore sang with visionary intensity. Müller-Brachmann maintained an unadorned simplicity of expression." Fiona Maddocks, The Observer, on the live performance
“The three soloists are not, perhaps, quite as eminently as the originals, but they're all excellent...[Nelsons's] un-English reading, more tautly controlled and vigorous than Britten's own, reveals unexpected hues and beauties in the score. This never drags, despite so much inner darkness, and the camera enhances the performance”
“[Padmore] is simply outstanding...Erin Wall projects the soprano part extremely well...Orchestra and choirs played their parts admirably but the overall accolade...must go to Andris Nelsons for the wonderful way in which he holds the whole thing together.”
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