War Requiem / Musikfest Berlin in the Philharmony

Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976)

Information on the piece

War Requiem op. 66 for soli, chorus, boys' chorus, orchestra and chamber orchestra.
First performed on 30 May 1962

approx. 90 minutes / no intermission

In Latin and English with German and English surtitles

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A concert in cooperation with Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin

About the performance

Apart from being a timeless masterpiece, Benjamin Britten’s WAR REQUIEM was also a powerfully symbolic work at the time of its creation. Its world premiere in 1962 coincided with the consecration of Coventry Cathedral following its reconstruction. Erected on the ruins of the mediaeval cathedral destroyed by German bombers, the modern building symbolises reconciliation while also being a sombre memorial to war and annihilation. In his full-scale requiem Britten sets the Catholic liturgy in juxtaposition to poems by Wilfred Owen, an English soldier who was killed in the First World War and whose works deal with his personal experience of the horrors of war. Britten’s choices for the soloist roles are also a reflection of his desire for reconciliation. The tenor part was taken by Englishman Peter Pears, the baritone by a German, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The soprano role was set to be sung by Galina Wishnevskaya, a Russian, but she was denied a travel visa by the USSR authorities at the last minute, later being permitted to collaborate on a gramophone recording of the work. With this performance of WAR REQUIEM as part of Musikfest Berlin, Donald Runnicles resumes his series of Britten works, adding to the events marking the inauguration in 1961 of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, whose reconstruction coincided with Britten’s work on REQUIEM.


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