Nelsons Conducts Britten’s War Requiem



  • Thumbnail

Tuesday 28 May 2013 at 7.30pm

Symphony Hall, Birmingham +44 (0)121 345 0600

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Andris Nelsons  conductor

Erin Wall  soprano

Mark Padmore  tenor

Hanno Müller-Brachmann  baritone

CBSO Chorus  

CBSO Youth Chorus   CBSO Children’s Chorus  

Britten: War Requiem 88′ Listen on Spotify Watch on YouTube

“My subject is War, and the pity of War.” Benjamin Britten composed his War   Requiem for the new Coventry Cathedral, but it’s become one of the defining   achievements of modern music, a timeless and profoundly moving exploration of   man’s inhumanity to man. The CBSO gave its world premiere: this music is in   our blood, and every performance is special to us. Be there as Andris Nelsons   and an international team of soloists bring this deeply personal masterpiece   to Symphony Hall before taking the work on tour.

Unfortunately, Kristine Opolais has withdrawn from the War Requiem performances. This is due to physical changes in her voice over the last months, following the birth of her first baby, which have affected her work with this repertoire.

We are grateful to Erin Wall for agreeing to take her place at short notice.

Read all about the 50th anniversary performance of the War Requiem in Coventry   Cathedral in May 2012 here.

Explore Birmingham’s celebrations of Britten’s centenary here.



Review by Ivan Hewett, Telegraph:

Click here for full review

…     “In fact the clarity of sight and sound was all to the good. They showed up the special virtues of the conductor, Andris Nelsons, who refused to approach the work with the reverence it sometimes receives from British conductors. He just wanted to make it as thrilling and immediate as possible.

The result was that passages which can sound like a somewhat dim echo of earlier Britten came up fresh and new. The word “revelatory” is overused in concert reviews, but here it’s exactly right. There were whole passages which I felt I was hearing for the first time, like the “Recordare” chorus, and the beautiful semi-chorus in the “Liber Scriptus”, touched off by the pearly innocence of soprano Erin Wall (and how touching she was in the “Lacrimosa”, cushioned by the voices of the CBSO chorus.) The CBSO Youth Chorus, coming from way up above in the gallery, were moving just because they were so crystal clear.”     … 5 out of 5 stars



Review by Roger Jones, SeenandHeard:

Click here for full review

…     “The final section, Libera me, was a tremendous climax, both dramatically and emotionally. In the Tremens factus choirs and orchestra (especially the brass and percussion) burst into a horrific cacophany of sound which as good as plunged the audience into the middle of a battle. This was Verdi – but far more terrifying. Then came one of Wilfred Owen’s most striking and hatrrowing poems, Strange Meeting, in which the poet meets in death the man he has killed. It was sung with dignity and sincerity by Padmore followed by Müller-Brachmann who effortlessly imparted meaning to every word and note. The final Let us sleep now, repeated by the soloists, was enveloped in the embrace of In paradisum from the Youth Choir and eventually by the whole chorus.

Simon Halsey insists the CBSO Chorus is the best choir in the world, and although there must be other contenders for the title, they certainly turned in an excellent performance this evening – as did the CBSO and Andris Nelsons who is now confirmed as one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament. But I single out for particular praise the two male soloists. I have always been impressed by Mark Padmore’s musical sensitivity but his feeling for the words he sings with such clarity and meaning. But now he has a rival: Hanno Müller-Brachmann!”     …



Blog Post by The Plashing Vole:

Click here for full post

…     “As to the CBSO’s performance – they and the conductor Andris Nelsons proved yet again why they’re one of the best ensembles in the world at the moment. This difficult, complex music wasn’t just performed technically well: the dynamics and the emotional effects were perfect. The children’s choir was disturbing and ethereal and the largely amateur CBSO Chorus wrung every ounce of suffering and desolation from their parts. For me, the test of a good choir isn’t power and volume: it’s the ability to maintain beauty, diction and control in the quietest passages. The Requiem demanded total control and the Chorus demonstrated once again just how amazing they are.

At the end of the 88 minutes, performed without an interval (thankfully), the audience was stunned into silence. I’ve never heard such a long, profound silence after the baton went down. I was moved to tears, both by the subject matter and the performance and I think others were too. Nelsons stood there, slumped, exhausted and spent, until finally he exchanged weary, emotional hugs with the singers – they’d been through the emotional wringer and the event transcended the usual very British reserve seen on platforms.”     …



Blog Post by Rodney Bashford, WarRequiem.Blogspot:

Click here for full post

...     “Does the powerful impact of War Requiem reduce with so much repetition?

Not from the performer’s perspective and, judging by the audience reaction last night, not for those who may have encountered it before or those, perhaps,  coming to it for the first time. The atmosphere was ‘electric’, the performance (like Coventry Cathedral) equally highly charged and the stunned silence at the end almost as long as that in Coventry. Let’s see what Europe now make of it!

These are some of the comments from Tuesday night’s performance:
Chorus Member
The audience don’t see Andris Nelsons’ entreating eyes, now anguished, now seraphic; the semaphoring mouth; the fluttering, eloquent hands as he dispenses with the baton; the sheer depth of involvement in communicating his vision.
The sheer emotional response of all concerned, tears even in the eyes of hard-boiled back-desk violins, and even more so from the vocal soloists. Mark Padmore, exuded both anger at the crass futility of war, and overwhelming guilt and regret as he and the German “enemy” he killed are reconciled in eternal sleep.
The CBSO and CBSO Chorus were wonderful last night. Truly breathtaking and wonderfully conducted by Nelsons (as usual)!”     …
Review by Andrew H King, BachTrack:
Click here for full review
…     “Conductor Andris Nelsons commanded the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, CBSO Chorus and Youth Chorus, as well as three excellent soloists, in one of those performances that linger in the memory for days after the final notes are heard. The steady, ominous opening provided an excellent opportunity for the orchestra to display the tightness of ensemble, Britten’s unforgiving use of rhythm from the off being a premonition that the worst is yet to come. The chorus also immediately matched the orchestral skill, each brief, disintegrating phrase possessing an accurate and intense level of attention to detail – Britten indicates masses of colour throughout the work and each instruction was rigorously observed. The initial entrance of the Youth Chorus, accompanied by chamber organ high up in the gallery and representing something ethereally beautiful, further cemented the performance’s high standards with excellent diction and precise intonation.”     …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s