War Requiem

In the last couple days I’ve listened to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (85 minutes, completed in 1962) twice. It’s earth shattering, deeply moving music all the way through. How did I come to listen to this?

A week ago today I attending a Senior College event in Bridgton, encouraged by a friend named Joan, in which a man named Homer spoke on opera and illustrated his talk with DVD selections from three operas, Idomeneo by Mozart, The Flying Dutchman by Wagner, and Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. It was the last opera that really got to me and it reminded me that I had a copy of Britten’s War Requiem at home.

So, that’s why I started listening to it.

You can look up War Requiem on Wikipedia and get lots of details. Here’s the first sentence from the Musical Analysis section of the Wikipedia: “The interval of a tritone between C and F♯ is a recurring motif, the occurrence of which unifies the entire work.” This makes the work eerie and fascinating but mainly it provides the substratum for the anger of the piece against war, the futility, stupidity, and horrendous evil of war.

The recording I have features Galina Vishnevskaya, Peter Pears, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, all fantastically great singers. Vishnevskaya in particular blows my mind. Never have I heard such incredible power in a soprano. The poetry of the great anti-war war poet, Wilfred Owen, of the First (Great) World War, is incorporated into the music. Ironically he was killed a week before the armistice was signed.

So, all in all I could say this music gives me a deeply spiritual, hypnotic experience, and I’m with the music all the way in its intense, earth shattering anger against war.

Hey, give it a whirl?

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  1. Mardé’s avatar

    I’d like to add that Benjamin Britten was one of Cynthia’s favorite composers and in particular she loved his A Ceremony of Carols. Cynthia loved this music especially at Christmas time and I believe we performed selections at the Arlington Street Church in Boston shortly after we first met.


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