Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Britten – War Requiem Broadcast from Lucerne: March 23, 2013

In observance of the Benjamin Britten centenary, Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus and Orchestra will present his War Requiem. They'll be joined by the Tölzer Boys Choir, American soprano Emily Magee, English tenor Mark Padmore, and German baritone Christian Gerhaher. 

Ms. Magee and the choruses sing the Latin texts of the Requiem Mass; Messers Padmore and Gerhaher accompanied by a chamber ensemble intersperse texts of Wilfred Owen, a famously pacifist poet who died tragically young during World War I. Britten was also a pacifist, a conscientious objector, and in a way, a draft dodger; he and Peter Pears moved to the U.S. for the duration of World War II to avoid being enlisted.

Britten’s oratorio is full of sharp contrasts between huge symphonic and choral forces and chamber music intimacy. The Owen texts were chosen to reflect, often ironically, on the Latin texts. The work was written for the 1962 dedication of the reconstructed Coventry Cathedral (after it was bombed by the Germans in during WWII.) It is a dramatic, shattering and difficult work.

Frankly I find this work difficult to listen to (and it was a nightmare to learn the tenor chorus parts) but I am looking forward to hearing this ensemble. Of course, I am a major fan of Emily Magee. And both Mark Padmore and Christian Gerhaher are highly regarded for their art song interpretations; the Owen text settings certainly fit the art song mold. The solo parts were written for and premiered by Galina Vishnevskaya*, Peter Pears, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

The concert will be broadcast on Friday 03/15/2013 at 8 PM Munich time (which I think works out to be about 3 PM Eastern time.) BR radio usually archives these concerts for about a week, so we should be able to catch up with the concert over the weekend if we happen to be… oh, I don’t know…working, or something.

*Actually, Heather Harper sang the initial performances, due to post-War Russia/England immigration issues, but Vishnevskaya did participate in the World Premiere recording. 

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