Requiem, Op. 66
Stefania Woytowicz, soprano; Peter Pears, tenor; Hans Wilbrink, baritone; Wandsworth School Boys' Choir; Melos Ensemble; New Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus/Carlo Maria Giulini, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4046 (F) (ADD) TT: 79:11
Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, written on a commission to celebrate the consecration of Basil Spencer's new Coventry Cathedral that replaced the one destroyed in the Second World War, had its premiere there May 30 and June 1, 1962. Britten conducted the chamber ensemble with Meredith Davies as overall conductor. The luminous trio of singers: tenor Peter Pears, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya and baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, with various choruses and the London Symphony Orchestra. Early the following year, Decca made their famous recording with the original performers, which hasn't been out of the catalog since and remains the preferred recording of the work.
War Requiem juxtaposes
the Latin Requiem Mass, sung by the soprano soloist, the main chorus
and the boys' choir, with settings of
World War I poet Wilfred Owen, sung by tenor and baritone soloists with
chamber orchestra. The anti-war message of War Requiem,
reflecting the composer's pacifist feelings, was well-received and within
a few years there were performances in Amsterdam, Vienna and other major
music centers. As Britten declined major conducting responsibilities
at the premiere, Coventry Festival authorities had to decide who would
take this over. Carlo Maria Giulini was one of two conductors under
consideration; Meredith Davies was chosen. Giulini conducted the
work for the first time at the 1968 Edinburgh Festival with the same
soloists as in the premiere, along with the Philharmonia Orchestra with
the Melos Ensemble directed by the composer.