|by Benjamin Britten|
Interior of the new Coventry Cathedral, where the Requiem was first performed
|Occasion||Consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral|
|Performed||30 May 1962|
The War Requiem, Op. 66, is a large-scale setting of the Requiem composed by Benjamin Britten mostly in 1961 and completed in January 1962.The War Requiem was performed for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the original fourteenth-century structure was destroyed in a World War II bombing raid. The traditional Latin texts are interspersed, in telling juxtaposition, with extra-liturgical poems by Wilfred Owen, written during World War I.
In musical composition, the opus number is the "work number" that is assigned to a composition, or to a set of compositions, to indicate the chronological order of the composer's production. Opus numbers are used to distinguish among compositions with similar titles; the word is abbreviated as "Op." for a single work, or "Opp." when referring to more than one work.
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead, is a Mass in the Catholic Church offered for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal. It is usually, but not necessarily, celebrated in the context of a funeral.
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten was an English composer, conductor and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British classical music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral showpiece The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1945).
The work is scored for soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, chorus, boys' choir, organ, and two orchestras (a full orchestra and a chamber orchestra). The chamber orchestra accompanies the intimate settings of the English poetry, while soprano, choirs and orchestra are used for the Latin sections; all forces are combined in the conclusion. The Requiem has a duration of approximately 80–85 minutes. In 2019, War Requiem was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
A soprano[soˈpraːno] is a type of classical female singing voice and has the highest vocal range of all voice types. The soprano's vocal range (using scientific pitch notation) is from approximately middle C (C4) = 261 Hz to "high A" (A5) =880 Hz in choral music, or to "soprano C" (C6, two octaves above middle C) =1046 Hz or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which often encompasses the melody. The soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, soubrette, lyric, spinto, and dramatic soprano.
Tenor is a male voice type in classical music whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A♭2 (two A♭s below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.
A baritone is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice types. Originally from the Greek βαρύτονος (barýtonos), meaning heavy sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C (i.e. F2–F4) in choral music, and from the second A below middle C to the A above middle C (A2 to A4) in operatic music, but can be extended at either end. The baritone voice type is generally divided into the baryton-Martin baritone (light baritone), lyric baritone, Kavalierbariton, Verdi baritone, dramatic baritone, baryton-noble baritone, and the bass-baritone.
The War Requiem, first performed on 30 May 1962, was commissioned to mark the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the original 14th-century structure was destroyed in a World War II bombing raid. The reconsecration was an occasion for an arts festival, for which Michael Tippett also wrote his opera King Priam .
The Cathedral Church of St Michael, commonly known as Coventry Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Coventry and the Diocese of Coventry, and is part of the Church of England in Coventry, West Midlands, England. The current (9th) bishop is Christopher Cocksworth and the current Dean is John Witcombe.
The Coventry Blitz was a series of bombing raids that took place on the English city of Coventry. The city was bombed many times during the Second World War by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). The most devastating of these attacks occurred on the evening of 14 November 1940 and continued into the morning of 15 November.
Sir Michael Kemp Tippett was an English composer who rose to prominence during and immediately after the Second World War. In his lifetime he was sometimes ranked with his contemporary Benjamin Britten as one of the leading British composers of the 20th century. Among his best-known works are the oratorio A Child of Our Time, the orchestral Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli, and the opera The Midsummer Marriage.
Britten, a pacifist, was inspired by the commission, which gave him complete freedom in deciding what to compose. He chose to set the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead interwoven with nine poems about war by the English poet Wilfred Owen. Owen, who was born in 1893, was serving as the commander of a rifle company when he was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal in France, just one week before the Armistice. Although he was virtually unknown at the time of his death, he has subsequently come to be revered as one of the great war poets.
Pacifism is opposition to war, militarism, or violence. The word pacifism was coined by the French peace campaigner Émile Arnaud (1864–1921) and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress in Glasgow in 1901. A related term is ahimsa, which is a core philosophy in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. While modern connotations are recent, having been explicated since the 19th century, ancient references abound.
Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, MC was an English poet and soldier. He was one of the leading poets of the First World War. His war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare was heavily influenced by his mentor Siegfried Sassoon, and stood in stark contrast both to the public perception of war at the time and to the confidently patriotic verse written by earlier war poets such as Rupert Brooke. Among his best-known works – most of which were published posthumously – are "Dulce et Decorum est", "Insensibility", "Anthem for Doomed Youth", "Futility", "Spring Offensive" and "Strange Meeting".
A war poet is a poet who participates in a war and writes about his experiences, or a non-combatant who write poems about war. While the term is applied especially to those who served during World War I, the term can be applied to a poet of any nationality writing about any war, including Homer's Iliad, from around the 8th century BC, and the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, that celebrated the actual battle of 991, as well as poetry of the American and the Spanish Civil War, the Crimean War, etc.
Philip Reed has discussed the progression of Britten's composition of the War Requiem in the Cambridge Music Handbook publication on the work.Britten himself acknowledged the stylistic influence of Requiems by other composers, such as Giuseppe Verdi's, on his own composition.
The Messa da Requiem is a musical setting of the Catholic funeral mass (Requiem) for four soloists, double choir and orchestra by Giuseppe Verdi. It was composed in memory of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist whom Verdi admired. The first performance, at the San Marco church in Milan on 22 May 1874, marked the first anniversary of Manzoni's death. The work was at one time called the Manzoni Requiem. It is rarely performed in liturgy, but rather in concert form of around 85–90 minutes in length. Musicologist David Rosen calls it 'probably the most frequently performed major choral work composed since the compilation of Mozart's Requiem'.
Britten dedicated the work to Roger Burney, Piers Dunkerley, David Gill, and Michael Halliday. Burney and Halliday, who died in the war, were friends of Peter Pears and Britten, respectively. According to the Britten–Pears Foundation's War Requiem website, Dunkerley, one of Britten's closest friends, took part in the 1944 Normandy landings. Unlike the other dedicatees, he survived the war but committed suicide in June 1959, two months before his wedding. None of the other dedicatees have known graves, but are commemorated on memorials to the missing.
Britten's Children is a scholarly 2006 book by John Bridcut that describes the English composer Benjamin Britten's relationship with several adolescent boys. Bridcut has been praised for treating such a sensitive subject in "an impeccably unsensational tone". The Britten-Pears Foundation described the book as having been "enthusiastically received as shedding new light on one of the most interesting aspects of Britten's life and career, in a study that is thoroughly researched, wonderfully readable and thought-provoking". Bridcut's book followed his television documentary Britten's Children shown on BBC2 in June 2004.
Sir Peter Neville Luard Pears was an English tenor. His career was closely associated with the composer Benjamin Britten, his personal and professional partner for nearly forty years.
The musical forces are divided into three groups that alternate and interact with each other throughout the piece, finally fully combining at the end of the last movement. The soprano soloist and choir are accompanied by the full orchestra, the baritone and tenor soloists are accompanied by the chamber orchestra, and the boys' choir is accompanied by a small positive organ (this last group ideally being situated at some distance from the full orchestra). This group produces a very strange, distant sound. The soprano and choir and the boys' choir sing the traditional Latin Requiem text, while the tenor and baritone sing poems by Wilfred Owen, interspersed throughout.
The full orchestra consists of the following instrumentation.
The chamber orchestra consists of the following instrumentation.
The work consists of six movements:
The interval of a tritone between C and F♯ is a recurring motif, the occurrence of which unifies the entire work. The interval is used both in contexts that emphasize the harmonic distance between C and F♯ and those that resolve them harmonically, mirroring the theme of conflict and reconciliation present throughout the work. The Requiem aeternam, Dies irae, and Libera me movements end in a brief choral phrase, consisting mainly of slow half notes, each first and second phrase ending on a tritone's discord, with every last (i. e. third) phrase resolving to an F-major chord; while at the end of the Agnus Dei the tenor (in his only transition from the Owen poems to the Requiem liturgy, on the key words, Dona nobis pacem – Give us peace) outlines a perfect fifth from C to G before moving down to F♯ to resolve the chorus's final chord. At the end of the Dies irae, the tenor sings (from Owen's "Futility") "O what, what made fatuous sunbeams toil, to break earth's sleep at all?" The notes of "at all" form the tritone and lead into the choir's formal resolution. In the final Owen setting, "Strange Meeting", one of the most prominent expressions of the tritone is sung by the tenor, addressing an opposing soldier with the words "Strange friend". This poem is accompanied by sporadic detached chords from two violins and a viola, which include the tritone as part of a dominant seventh chord. At the end of the poem, the final string chord resolves to the tonic, bringing the work to its final, reconciliatory In paradisum. On a more practical level, Britten facilitated musical execution of the tritone in the closing bars by having the F♯ sung in one voice, but the C in another.
Four other motifs that usually occur together are distinct brass fanfares of the Dies irae: a rising arpeggio, a falling arpeggio followed by a repeated note, a repeated fourth in a dotted rhythm ending in a diminished arpeggio, and a descending scale. These motifs form a substantial part of the melodic material of the piece: the setting of "Bugles sang" is composed almost entirely of variations of them.
Another linking feature can be found in the opening of the final movement, Libera Me, where the slow march tune in the double basses (preceded by two drums outlining the rhythm) replicates the more-rapid opening theme of the first poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth.
One striking juxtaposition is found in the Offertorium, a fugue in the repeating three-part-time scheme 6
8 where the choir sings of God's promise to Abraham ("Quam olim Abrahae promisisti, et semini eius" – "which you once promised Abraham and his seed"). This frames Owen's retelling of the offering of Isaac, in which the angel tells Abraham to:
'... offer the ram of pride instead of him.'
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
and half the seed of Europe, one by one.
As the male soloists sing the last line repeatedly, the boys sing "Hostias et preces tibi, Domine" ("Sacrifice and prayers we offer thee, Lord"), paralleling the sacrifice of the Mass with the sacrifice of "half the seed of Europe" (a reference to World War I). The "reprise" of "Quam olim Abrahae" is sung in inversion, diminuendo instead of crescendo.
The whole of the Offertorium is a reference to Britten's earlier Canticle No. 2 "Abraham and Isaac" from 1952. Britten here uses much of the musical material of the earlier work, but the music in the Requiem is twisted into much more sinister forms.
Although there are a few occasions in which members of one orchestra join the other, the full forces do not join together until the latter part of the last movement, when the tenor and baritone sing the final line of Owen's poem "Strange Meeting" ("Let us sleep now ...") as "In Paradisum deducant" ("Into Paradise lead them ...") is sung first by the boys' choir, then by the full choir (in 8-part canon), and finally by the soprano. The boys' choir echoes the Requiem aeternam from the beginning of the work, and the full choir ends on the resolved tritone motif.
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. Close to the premiere, the Soviet authorities did not permit Vishnevskaya to travel to Coventry for the event, although she was later permitted to leave to make the recording in London. With only ten days' notice, Heather Harper stepped in and performed the soprano role.
Although the Coventry Cathedral Festival Committee had hoped Britten would be the sole conductor for the work's premiere, shoulder pain forced his withdrawal from the main conducting role.He did, however, conduct the chamber orchestra, and this spawned a tradition of separate conductors that the work does not require and Britten never envisaged. The premiere took place on 30 May 1962, in the rebuilt cathedral with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Meredith Davies (accompanying soprano and chorus), and the Melos Ensemble, conducted by the composer (accompanying tenor and baritone). At Britten's request, there was no applause following the performance. It was a triumph, and critics and audiences at this and subsequent performances in London and abroad hailed it as a contemporary masterpiece. Writing to his sister after the premiere, Britten said of his music, "I hope it'll make people think a bit." On the title page of the score he quoted Wilfred Owen:
My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity...
All a poet can do today is warn.
Because of time zones, the southern hemisphere premiere was about 12 hours ahead of that in North America, though they were on the same day, 27 July 1963. The southern hemisphere premiere was in Wellington, New Zealand, with John Hopkins conducting the New Zealand National Orchestra (now the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) and the Royal Christchurch Musical Society, with soloists Peter Baillie, Graeme Gorton and Angela Shaw. The North American premiere was at Tanglewood, with Erich Leinsdorf conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra with soloists Phyllis Curtin, Nicholas Di Virgilio, Tom Krause and choruses from Chorus Pro Musica and the Columbus Boychoir, featuring boy soprano Thomas Friedman.
The Dutch premiere took place during the Holland Festival, in 1964. The Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Choir were conducted by Bernard Haitink; the chamber orchestra (consisting of Concertgebouw Orchestra instrumentalists) by Britten himself. The soloists were Vishnevskaya, Fischer-Dieskau and Pears, in their first public performance together.
The English Chamber Choir performed the work at Your Country Needs You, an evening of "voices in opposition to war" organised by The Crass Collective in November 2002.
To commemorate the eve of the 70th anniversary of the destruction of the original cathedral, a performance of the Requiem took place in the new cathedral on 13 November 2010, featuring the soprano Claire Rutter, the tenor Daniel Norman, baritone Stephen Gadd, The Parliament Choir, Saint Michael's singers, Deutscher Chor London, the ESO Chamber Orchestra, The Southbank Sinfonia and The Girl Choristers of Coventry Cathedral. It was conducted by Simon Over and Paul Leddington Wright . A recording was made and broadcast a day later on Classic FM . A second performance with the same performers took place on 17 November 2010 at Westminster Cathedral .
A 50th anniversary performance was given by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons at Coventry Cathedral on 30 May 2012.
|Studio album by|
|Benjamin Britten chronology|
The first recording, featuring Vishnevskaya, Fischer-Dieskau and Pears, with the London Symphony Orchestra and The Bach Choir conducted by Britten, was produced by Decca in 1963. Within five months of its release it sold 200,000 copies, an unheard-of number for a piece of contemporary classical music at that time. – not having performed the work before – she was being insulted by being placed with the choir instead of at the front with the male soloists. The newest (2013) CD reissue of this recording includes 50 minutes of surreptitiously taped rehearsal footage at the time of the recording.Recording producer John Culshaw reports that Vishnevskaya threw a tantrum during the recording, as she believed
Other recordingsof the work include the following:
In 1988, the British film director Derek Jarman made a screen adaptation of War Requiem of the same title, with the 1963 recording as the soundtrack, produced by Don Boyd and financed by the BBC. It features the final film performance of Laurence Olivier, in the role of an ageing war veteran.
The 6th Annual Grammy Awards were held on May 12, 1964, at Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. They recognized accomplishments by musicians for the year 1963. Henry Mancini won 4 awards.
Lorin Varencove Maazel was an American conductor, violinist and composer. Making his debut at the conducting podium at the age of eight, he embarked on his career in earnest in 1953, establishing a reputation in European concert halls by 1960 but, by comparison, his career in the U.S. progressed far more slowly. However, he would later be appointed music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic, among other posts. Maazel was well-regarded in baton technique and possessed a photographic memory for scores. Described as mercurial and forbidding in rehearsal, he mellowed in old age.
The Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance has been awarded since 1961. There have been several minor changes to the name of the award over this time:
Gabriel Fauré composed his Requiem in D minor, Op. 48, between 1887 and 1890. The choral-orchestral setting of the shortened Catholic Mass for the Dead in Latin is the best-known of his large works. Its focus is on eternal rest and consolation. Fauré's reasons for composing the work are unclear, but do not appear to have had anything to do with the death of his parents in the mid-1880s. He composed the work in the late 1880s and revised it in the 1890s, finishing it in 1900.
The Spring Symphony is Benjamin Britten's Opus 44. It is dedicated to Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was premiered in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, on Thursday 14 July 1949 as part of the Holland Festival, when the composer was 35. At the premiere the tenor soloist was Peter Pears, the soprano Jo Vincent and the contralto Kathleen Ferrier. The conductor was Eduard van Beinum. A recording of the performance survives and was first issued by Decca in August 1994.
The Atlanta Boy Choir is a renowned choral group for boys and men in Atlanta, Georgia. The choir, as it is known today, was founded in 1959 by Maestro Fletcher Wolfe. The choir is an ambassador internationally, performing across North America and Europe in many of the most renowned concert halls and cathedrals in the world.
Polish Requiem, also A Polish Requiem, is a large-scale requiem mass for soloists, mixed choir and orchestra by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. The Lacrimosa, dedicated to the trade union leader Lech Wałęsa, was written for the unveiling of a statue at the Gdańsk Shipyard to commemorate those killed in the Polish anti-government riots in 1970. He expanded the work into a requiem, writing other parts to honour different patriotic events over the next four years. The Polish Requiem was first performed in Stuttgart on 28 September 1984. Penderecki revised and expanded the work in 1993, and expanded it again in 2005 with the additional movement, Ciaccona. It is called Polish Requiem because its parts are dedicated to heroes and victims of Polish history. One of the better-known works by Penderecki, the mass largely follows the liturgical Latin of the requiem format with the addition of Święty Boże, the Polish translation of the Trisagion.
The Alto Rhapsody, Op. 53, is a composition for contralto, male chorus, and orchestra by Johannes Brahms, a setting of verses from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Harzreise im Winter. It was written in 1869, as a wedding gift for Robert and Clara Schumann's daughter, Julie. Brahms scholars have long speculated that the composer may have had romantic feelings for Julie, which he may have integrated into the text and music of the Alto Rhapsody. The text, with its metaphysical portrayal of a misanthropic soul who is urged to find spiritual sustenance and throw off the shackles of his suffering, has powerful parallels in Brahms's life and character.
Missa Latina is a classical music composition written by the Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra. The work was written for SATB chorus with two soloists, and a symphonic orchestra. It was co-commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and The Choral Arts Society of Washington and was written through 2003–2005. It premiered in 2006 at Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and was also performed in the 51st Casals Festival in Puerto Rico. The Washington Times judged it "the most significant symphonic premiere in the District since the late Benjamin Britten's stunning War Requiem was first performed in the still-unfinished Washington National Cathedral in the late 1960s."
Antonín Dvořák's Requiem in B♭ minor, Op. 89, B. 165, is a funeral Mass scored for soloists, choir and orchestra. It was composed in 1890 and performed for the first time on 9 October 1891, in Birmingham, England, with the composer conducting.
(Albert) Meredith Davies CBE was a British conductor, renowned for his advocacy of English music by composers such as Benjamin Britten, Frederick Delius and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
James Westman is a Canadian baritone known for his interpretation of the Verdi, Puccini and bel canto operatic repertoire, and particularly his signature role of Germont in La traviata, which he has sung in over 150 performances, with opera companies such as San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Graz Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Opéra de Montréal, Los Angeles Opera, Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, Canadian Opera Company, Boston Lyric Opera, Cologne Opera, Vancouver Opera, English National Opera, San Diego Opera, Dallas Opera, Utah Opera, and Opera Theatre of St. Louis. On January 29, 2011 Westman created the lead role of Sandy Keith In the world premiere of Bramwell Tovey's The Inventor. In 2017 he played Sir John A. MacDonald in Harry Somers's Louis Riel for the Canadian Opera Company's tribute to Canada's 150th celebrations. As a recitalist, he has performed for the Marilyn Horne Foundation, Aldeburgh Connection, Aldeburgh Festival, Musikverein, Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Morgan Library & Museum, Koerner Hall, Carnegie Hall, Saito Kinen Festival in Japan, Stratford Summer Music, British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Westman first came to attention at the age of twelve when he was the first boy soprano to perform and record Mahler 4th Symphony with Benjamin Zander and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra in 1984. Westman is regularly featured as the Anthem singer for the Toronto Maple Leafs and numerous other NHL franchises. Four of Westman's recordings have been nominated for a Juno Award. Two recordings nominated for a Grammy Award.
The London Philharmonic Choir (LPC) is one of the leading independent British choirs in the United Kingdom based in London. The Patron is Princess Alexandra, The Hon Lady Ogilvy and Sir Mark Elder is President. The choir, comprising more than 200 members, holds charitable status and is governed by a committee of 6 elected directors. As a charity, its aims are to promote, improve, develop and maintain education in the appreciation of the art and science of music by the presentation of public concerts.
Stabat Mater is a work by Gioachino Rossini based on the traditional structure of the Stabat Mater for chorus and soloists. Initially he used his own librettos and compositions for a portion of the work and, eventually, the remainder by Giovanni Tadolini, who composed six additional movements. Rossini presented the completed work to Varela as his own. It was composed late in his career after retiring from the composition of opera. He began the work in 1831 but did not complete it until 1841.
Peter Butterfield is a Canadian conductor and classical tenor. In 2003 he founded the VancouverVoices and since 2009 he has been the director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir. As a singer he has performed throughout Europe, Asia, and North America; working primarily as a concert singer since the early 1980s. He has also appeared on radio and television programs in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He is married to mezzo-soprano Sarah Fryer.
John Noble was an English baritone. He was Ralph Vaughan Williams's favourite in the title role of the composer's opera The Pilgrim's Progress.
Gavin Carr is a British conductor and baritone working with major choruses in the UK and appearing in opera and concert in the UK and around the globe.
List of recordings of Johannes Brahms' A German Requiem, Op. 45 (1868).
Britten's War Requiem (1963) is the first recording of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. It featured Galina Vishnevskaya, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Peter Pears with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Melos Ensemble, The Bach Choir and the Highgate School Choir, and was conducted by Britten himself. The recording took place in the Kingsway Hall in London and was produced by John Culshaw for Decca. Within five months of its release in May 1963 it sold 200,000 copies, an unheard-of number for a piece of contemporary classical music at that time.