Daily Post (Liverpool)

MUSIC REVIEW War Requiem/ Liverpool Cathedral



FOR most people, war is a horrifying fact of life. It's not just something which flashes on and off the TV screen but, as the Dean of Liverpool reminded the vast audience for Britten's War Requiem, service men and women are still dying in conflict.
Many families, too, have relatives who've been sent into battle.
In my case, it was an uncle killed in his teens in the First World War two days before the Armistice. That's what made this performance all the more poignant, for Britten used the words of the Requiem Mass and intertwined them with the poems of Wilfred Owen, a brilliant mind wasted just hours before hostilities ceased. And, despite being an agnostic pacifist, Britten wrote one of his most serenely spiritual works.
This concert, which followed two performances in Germany, brought together forces from Liverpool and its twin city, Cologne. And, with vast forces, it could have been a disaster.
Instead, conductors Ian Tracey and Eberhard Metternich achieved a near perfect balance which was poised and emotive.
The chorus, which comprised the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, the choirs of both Liverpool cathedrals as well as Cologne, and the Oratorio Choir of Cologne, was disciplined with every word audible, even in the vast space of Liverpool Cathedral.
Their pianissimos - especially the last Amen - were exemplary, to the point of being almost spine-tingling. Naturally, the same could be said for the loud passages which, in this work, are rather few.
The boys' chorus sounded quite guttural, almost chesty, which added considerably to the robust nature of what they are called upon to sing.
Soprano soloist Marina Rebeka was powerful and sang her complex lines in a flawless manner.
The male soloists - tenor Ian Bostridge and bass-baritone Hanno Muller-Brachmann - were positioned well away from the chorus and orchestra, and were accompanied by a chamber orchestra. Bostridge's crystalclear voice related the Owen poems in a heartfelt way while Muller-Brachmann exhibited rich, deep tones which were well suited to the Britten score.
Some dynamic brass playing from the RLPO contributed to making this a concert which will find its way into the annals of the Philharmonic as one milestone event which people will still talk about a decade and more hence.

June 30, 2008, Monday


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