Britten War Requiem
Providence Singers join with Chorus pro Musica, New England Philharmonic and the Boston Children's Chorus to perform Britten's titanic War Requiem, on Saturday, March 3 at 8:00 pm at Boston’s neo-Gothic Cathedral of the Holy Cross; and on Sunday, March 4 at 3:30 pm at Providence’s Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. More information at www.providencesingers.org.
The War Requiem is a large-scale work, scored for soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists, chorus, boys choir, orchestra, chamber orchestra and organ. Written for a commemoration of World War II – the re-consecration in 1962 of the bombed Coventry Cathedral – its roots lie deep in World War I, the horrible "war to end all wars." The text intersperses the timeless words of the Latin Mass for the Dead with the vivid poetry of Wilfred Owen, a World War I British soldier who was killed a week before the Armistice.
The 1930s in Britain was not an easy time or place for a committed pacifist. Germany was arming; peace seemed an unlikely proposition. Yet Benjamin Britten’s abhorrence of violence was deeply seated and of long standing. He sought conscientious objector status in 1942, then continued “the work I’m most qualified to do” – composing, performing, and, at war’s end, mounting concerts with Yehudi Menuhin at the liberated Bergen–Belsen concentration camp. As England’s premier composer, Britten was commissioned to write a requiem for the Coventry Cathedral reconsecration in May 1962. His treatment of war, tempered by the poetry of Wilfred Owen, two world wars, and the Cold War gloom of nuclear arms, was not celebratory. “When you hear Britten’s music – if you really hear it, not just listen to it superficially,” said Leonard Bernstein, “you become aware of something very dark. There are gears that are grinding and not quite meshing. And they make a great pain. It was a difficult and lonely time.”