EIF 2014: Britten's War Requiem, Usher Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Philharmonia Orchestra
Britten’s War Requiem
Albina Shagimuratova, soprano; Toby Spence, tenor; Matthias Goerne, baritone; Edinburgh Festival Chorus, chorus master Christopher Bell; NYCoS National Boys Choir; Philharmonia Orchestra, conductor Sir Andrew Davis
Running time

Andrew Davis actively marshalled the large forces required for Britten’s War Requiem into a reasoned, powerful performance.

Heeding the composer’s instructions, it was an international line-up, of soloists. A full-strength Festival Chorus sang the Latin text of the Mass, combining seamlessly with Shagimuratova’s golden soprano solos in Dies Ira and the Sanctus. Tenor and baritone sang Wilfred Owen poems added to the Mass.

In “What passing bells for these who die as cattle” Spence captured the feelings of both poet and composer. It also gave an inkling of emotional demands to come. Goerne’s first solo, after the opening Dies Ira, was no less impressive.

His partnership with Spence in the “Parable of the Old Man and the Young” in the Offertorium was excellent. This section also utilised to good effect the National Boys Choir, sitting unseen in “The Gods” since “Te decet Hymnus” at the outset.

What was remarkable throughout was coherence of the whole. The massive Philharmonia, at times a big band, a chamber orchestra or a small group, responded promptly and precisely to Davis and the intricacies of the Britten score. The Festival Chorus was the backbone of the performance: the final applause recognised this.

Concert: Thursday 14th August 2014 at 8pm