50th Anniversary Performance: Britten’s War Requiem

Wednesday 30 May 2012 at 7.30pm

Coventry Cathedral

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons conductor
Erin Wall soprano
Mark Padmore tenor
Hanno Müller-Brachmann baritone
CBSO Chorus & Youth Chorus

Britten: War Requiem 77′ Listen on Spotify

Coventry Cathedral 2012 Jubilee Fifty years ago today in Coventry Cathedral, the CBSO made world history. Benjamin Britten composed his War Requiem to celebrate the consecration of the new Cathedral, but it’s become one of the defining masterpieces of the twentieth century: a devastating meditation on the pity of war that’s every bit as relevant today. On the fiftieth anniversary of that legendary premiere, we return to Coventry as part of the Cathedral’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. This promises to be one of the artistic highlights of 2012.

Information for audiences: Due to the live broadcasting, streaming and televising of this concert, please note that the doors will close at 7.25pm to enable a prompt start. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to admit latecomers. Please therefore ensure you allow plenty of time; the doors will open at 6.30pm. Information about parking in Coventry can be found here.

Please note Kristine Opolais has withdrawn from this concert as she is indisposed. We are grateful to Erin Wall who has agreed to take her place at short notice.

Find out what our musicians love about this music – watch music director Andris Nelsons and CBSO double bass section leader John Tattersdill discussing Britten’s War Requiem.

To listen to some of the music in this concert, and explore the rest of the season, using our Spotify playlists, click here.

Click here to watch online at TheSpace.org – until end of October

Click here to listen again on BBC Radio 3 – until 6th June 2012

Article by Patsy Fuller, Coventry Telegraph:

Click here for full article

…     “Nelsons is only too aware of the importance of the work and its significance for Coventry and the rest of the world. “It speaks to everyone,” he says.

He has never conducted the work before but says he recognises the “great privilege” which the CBSO enjoys through its association with it.”     …

Article by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full article

“Fifty Years and Still Spellbound by Britten’s War Requiem”     …

Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The CBSO played superbly. Nelsons can inspire them to play with shattering power when appropriate but they’re equally adept when finesse is required. They were on top form tonight. At the first performance Britten imported a specialist chamber group, the Melos Ensemble, to accompany the soloists. Did he not trust the CBSO? No need for any guests this time: the chamber group consisted of CBSO principals who acquitted themselves marvellously, providing acute and sensitive support for the two male singers.”     …

Review by Andrew Clements, Guardian:

Click here for full review

…     “Nelsons’ performance suggested he knew well enough where the work’s shortcomings are to be found. He gave his tenor and baritone soloists Mark Padmore (at his best) and Hanno Müller-Brachmann (occasionally a bit under-characterised) a very free expressive rein in the Wilfred Owen settings, and concentrated his attentions on giving point and purpose to the requiem mass sections. The CBSO’s own Chorus and Youth Chorus were on their most responsive form, and soprano soloist Erin Wall, stationed as usual among them, proved incisive.”     …

Review by Rian Evans, ClassicalSource:

Click here for full review

…     “From the very outset, with the words “Requiem aeternam” sung in hushed whispers and the characteristic bell-tolls gently reverberating, the response from the angelic voices of CBSO Youth Chorus singing in the chancel created rather an extraordinary atmosphere, reverent yet dynamic. Like Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, its influence Britten acknowledged, War Requiem is sometimes quite operatic: it was this quality of theatricality – bringing into dramatic focus some of the musical effects, notably the brass and percussion writing with which Britten spelled out the battery of war – that emerged very powerfully in the ‘Dies Irae’, reinforcing the pacifist message at the heart of the work. Erin Wall (replacing Kristīne Opolais, Nelsons’s wife) sang the soprano role which for Britten represented the ‘healing angel’ and which he wrote especially for Galina Vishnevskaya (taken by Heather Harper in the first performance). Standing between chorus and orchestra, Wall’s silvery tone succeeded admirably in carrying over that body of sound and in the ‘Lacrimosa’ she conveyed eloquently all the anguish of loss.”     …

Review by Jeremy Pound, Classical-Music:

Click here for full review

…      “But back to that backdrop. Time and again, the pathos of Owen’s words from World War One was given added force simply by the sight of those cathedral ruins, the result of another global conflict just 22 years later. Of around 1000 buildings in Coventry city centre, just 31 were left in touch. It was a concert to move like no other.

Am I being melodramatic? Well, judge for yourself. The 50th anniversary concert was broadcast live in Europe and will be available on an Arthaus DVD later this year. If they have captured just a fraction of the impact of the occasion, I’d recommend it without hesitation.”

Review by Katherine Dixson, Bachtrack:

Click here for full review

…     “How exquisite when Mark Padmore breathed life into ‘What passing bells for those who die as cattle?’ The poems were shared with Hanno Müller-Brachmann, previously a pupil of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the baritone soloist at the première, who sadly passed away earlier in May. Their individual singing, with eyes as well as voice, and their rapport when they duetted, especially in ‘Strange Meeting’ – the imagined post-death mutual recognition of two enemy soldiers – was immensely moving.”     …

Article,  BBC Local News:

Click here for full article

…     “Adrian Spillett, the principal percussionist for the CBSO, who performed on the anniversary, said the atmosphere was no less charged 50 years on.

“With the silence, you could hear a pin drop – the audience seemed to be spellbound throughout.”

 

Blog posts by David Barber:

Click here and here for full posts

…     “For me, the silence at the end of the performance, lasting well over a minute, will remain in my heart for a very long time.

Music’s power to communicate indescribable feelings and experiences was never more apparent.”     …

Blog post by James Ridgeway:

Click here for full post

…     “Being in the CBSO Chorus gives you opportunities that others would kill for and having the opportunity to take part in the 50th anniversary performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in the place that it was written for, was something which I did not take for granted.”     …

Review by Richard Fairman, FT:

Click here for full review

…     “A commemorative performance does justice to one of the great works of the 20th century”     …

Review by Fiona Maddocks, Observer:

Click here for full review

…     “Last Wednesday the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, which gave that first performance in 1962, returned to Coventry with the CBSO Chorus and Youth Chorus and fine soloists: soprano Erin Wall, tenor Mark Padmore and bass-baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann. The blistering performance, to a capacity audience, was led by the CBSO’s charismatic Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons – who, from a Soviet bloc country, would presumably have suffered the same fate as Vishnevskaya minus histrionics. It’s a sobering reminder of the bleak oppression of musicians in those cold war years and how, in this respect anyway, life has improved.

The light-filled building was used to full effect.”

 

@TheCBSO Storify coverage and tweets – click here

 

Review by Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

…     “Any work which can draw a response such as we witnessed from hardened professional orchestral players, a chorus so dedicated to delivering clarity of text to the utmost possible, and a conductor whose magic hands elicited so much pointing of diction, even in these circumstances, and drama both universal and intimate, cannot easily be dismissed — as the huge contemplative silence at the end confirmed.”      ***** 

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