It is the only event piece that I remember having researched and read widely in preparation. At least two days of finding resources on the internet and reading (and listening).
The programme notes on the seats are much appreciated, but the typeface is so fine and small it is difficult to read in the Perth Concert Hall. H even printed the text in nice large letters to take along to the performance. The official programme included the text in two pages, where H’s were printed on six pages.
The Britten Pears Foundation and The Flying Inkpot web sites include some excellent notes about Benjamin Britten and the War Requiem. I learnt that the War Requiem was commissioned for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral. The traditional Latin Mass for the Dead is interwoven with poems about war by the English poet Wilfred Owen.
The feeling that I had going to the performance was one of anticipation, but also feeling a little heavy considering the issues that the piece was tackling of the time. Except, and this is the heavy bit, the ideas explored are much of an issue now as they were then.
We went to the pre-concert talk which was an interview between Paul Kildea (conductor) and Caroline Baum. I’m so pleased that we did this, as Kildea rounded out my reading with the musicology and the placement of the various parts. For example, having seen nearly two hundred people; three soloists (soprano, tenor, and baritone), chamber orchestra, full choir, main orchestra, boys choir and an organ take the stage – is sheer orchestration.
During his talk, Paul Kildea finished with a question for the audience. That is, to see for ourselves whether the War Requiem ended with reconciliation. I don’t think it did.
It was definitely a performance that went beyond just enjoying the singing and music. I’m still thinking about it.