Britten War Requiem

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3rd October 2018
Wed 7.30pm

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Britten War Requiem

Benjamin Britten: War Requiem


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Westminster Cathedral, London

Orchestra - Philharmonia Orchestra

Conductor - David Hill

The Bach Choir

Choristers of Westminster Cathedral

Staats- und Domchor Berlin

Organ - Philip Scriven

Soprano - Sally Matthews

Tenor - Andrew Staples

Baritone - Benjamin Appl

Concert Synopsis

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Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem was composed in 1961 for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral – newly rebuilt following its destruction in the Second World War. Britten took as his inspiration the words of young English war poet, Wilfred Owen, himself killed in action on 4 November 1918, just days before the armistice. The War Requiem profoundly weaves together nine of Owen’s most poignant poems including Anthem for Doomed Youth, Futility and Strange Meeting, with the traditional Latin mass.

A contemporary masterpiece, the War Requiem neither glorifies war nor celebrates its victories; Britten, a pacifist, dedicated the Requiem to four close friends – three of whom were killed during the Second World War.

The performance will be interspersed with monologues based on wartime reportage and letters to loved ones, presented by:

Aisling Loftus, an English actress best known for portraying Agnes Towler on the ITV series Mr Selfridge and Sonya Rostova on the BBC historical period drama series War & Peace;

Actor Alex Jennings (The Crown, The Lady in the Van, The Queen);

and British journalist and author Christina Lamb OBE. Christine is the chief foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times.


Click here to read World War 1 memories from Dora Thornton

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Click here to read World War 1 memories from Heather Lloyd


Notes From the Composer / Conductor

Ever since The Bach Choir sang on the premiere recording with the composer conducting – still the seminal recording today – Britten’s War Requiem has been a work with which The Bach Choir has had a unique relationship.

In the same spirit of unity that characterised the premiere in Coventry Cathedral, for which Britten engaged soloists from the UK, Russia and Germany, we are delighted to bring together the boys of the Staats- und Domchor Berlin and the choristers of Westminster Cathedral, and to welcome German baritone Benjamin Appl, a student of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone soloist on the original recording.

This performance is unique also because we pause after the Dies Irae, Offertorium and Agnus Dei for short reflections on contemporary conflict, and new responses to Wilfred Owen’s poetry, read by special guests Alex Jennings, Christina Lamb and Aisling Loftus.  This is the second in our Oratorio Reimagined series, that began earlier this year with Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky; this is a development that has huge potential to transform the way in which we engage our audiences, and I hope that you will share my enthusiasm for, and commitment to, this aspect of The Bach Choir’s work.

David Hill