War Requiem in Edinburgh

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Philip M
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Joined: Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:38 am

War Requiem in Edinburgh

Post by Philip M » Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:37 pm

Tonight was the Orchestre de Paris’s second Edinburgh Festival concert - Britten’s War Requiem under Daniel Harding. This must surely be the greatest 20th Century Requiem. Especially when performed like this - the finest live performance I have heard (and I have heard performances under Nelsons, Rattle and Rostropovich).

The Usher Hall’s excellent acoustic helped. The 3 soloists were outstanding. Emma Bell was awesome as the soprano, with frightening screeches. Andrew Staples is one of the outstanding tenors of the current era - he is so intelligent and his diction is perfect. Florian Boesch almost outdid Fischer-Dieskau, especially with his soft tone.

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus had been superbly trained by Aiden Oliver (and had been judiciously refined in the rehearsal (that I attended) by Harding. Similarly Christopher Bell trained the NYCoS National Girls Choir superbly.

The true heroes of the night though were Daniel Harding and Britten - no break between the movements by Harding ,who gave a performance of drive, colour, drama and pathos. And even some reverence. Britten’s score is amazing. I had forgotten how little the first violins play for instance. But no note is wasted - and of course he kept his best writing for the tenor, his beloved Peter..

The only disappointment was the inevitable mobile phone. One rang during the final chord and another broke the 30” silence that Harding tried to manage after the end.

That was my final Edinburgh concert. Tomorrow we have Stephen Fry and Henning Wehn, then home on Monday.

John F
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Re: War Requiem in Edinburgh

Post by John F » Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:44 pm

The finest War Requiem I've yet heard was by Rostropovich and the New York Philharmonic back in 1987, with Vishnevskaya, Rolfe-Johnson and Shirley-Quirk. The orchestra wasn't in the best shape after 8 years with Zubin Mehta, but no matter; Rostropovich shaped the building drama of the piece rising to a terrifying climax in the Libera Me, as if a new war had begun with a nuclear blast - "the blast of lightning from the east." Something like this:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bosig5iPFU

I don't know whether Britten had this allusion in mind when composing the Requiem, his own recording sounds a bit inhibited after Rostropovich (I suppose everybody's does), but I believe it's in the music and even the words, and I hear it every time I hear the Requiem.

When Kurt Masur took over the Phlharmonic in 1991 he wasted no time whipping them into shape, and a highlight of his first season was the War Requiem, a free concert in St. John the Divine on Memorial Day. The reverberant acoustic, something like St. Paul's in London, smothered much of the music, but I had also heard it the previous night and thought it a fine performance. In a way it commemorated the close of the Cold War, which had just ended.
John Francis

Philip M
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Re: War Requiem in Edinburgh

Post by Philip M » Sun Aug 25, 2019 2:47 am

John

I heard Rostropovich in it in 1992. As you say, he was tremendous in it, though perhaps at times a bit too much like Alexander Nevsky! But - what a piece!

Philip

John F
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Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: War Requiem in Edinburgh

Post by John F » Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:00 am

How lucky we are, to have lived in a time of music-making like this. And not just the performers; the War Requiem was composed during our lifetimes. The composers and performers of those generations are all gone now, but fortunately there are recordings and videos so we and those to come can know what it was like.
John Francis

Philip M
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Joined: Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:38 am

Re: War Requiem in Edinburgh

Post by Philip M » Sun Aug 25, 2019 4:09 am

Indeed. I remember the BBC TV coverage at the time of the premiere. And attended the 50th anniversary performance at Coventry Cathedral conducted by Andris Nelsons.

jserraglio
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Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: War Requiem in Edinburgh

Post by jserraglio » Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:33 am

My piano teacher told me to buy the Decca recording not long after it came out and I did. At the time, its coverart complemented that of my Beatles' White Album.

Later, I heard it live with Welser-Most and the Clevelanders in 2003 and loved it. Hearing it unfold in real time and space made all the difference.

BTW, I very much admire the Masur/NYP recording, my favorite next to the studio premiere (one Britten LP I will never ever part with, the others being the Decca Grimes and Lucretia).

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