Britten’s War Requiem; Music in the Space Time Continuum – review – The Guardian

Posted by Google News | Industry News | domingo 30 junio 2013 10:24 am

A silence as tangible as grief hung in the air at St Paul’s Cathedral last week – for nearly two minutes at the close of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem the audience sat mute, stunned by the bleak grandeur of it all. Conductor Edward Gardner kept his hands raised, willing the packed building to hold its applause, but he need not have troubled; no one wanted to break their own silent meditation.

«My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity … All a poet can do today is warn,» wrote Wilfred Owen, killed just days before the 1918 armistice. His words chimed perfectly with Britten’s pacifist stance and when in 1962 the chance came to mark the inauguration of Coventry’s new cathedral the composer produced this masterpiece, an interweaving of the traditional Latin requiem mass with nine of Owen’s poems.

Coventry’s 14th-century cathedral had been destroyed in November 1940. Out of its ashes arose a building dedicated to a ministry of reconciliation. Britten seized upon this theme, scoring the solo parts for British, Russian and German singers, an ambition realised again at St Paul’s last week: the admirable German-born baritone Russell Braun was joined by the Russian soprano Evelina Dobraceva (replacing an indisposed Albina Shagimuratova), and the quintessentially English tenor Toby Spence.

The piece presents several problems of direction and balance for the conductor. It’s scored for chorus and huge orchestra, a separate chamber ensemble accompanying the soloists, two organs and a boys’ choir, required to sing at an ethereal distance. In the cavernous acoustic of St Paul’s, the potential for disaster was significant but Gardner triumphed, displaying total command of his massive forces.

He was aided by Andrew Carwood, director of music at the cathedral, who conducted the tremendous boys’ choir, hidden away behind the platform, their crisp, clear interjections rising above the clamour to thrilling effect. Carwood was Graeme Knowles’s inspired appointment when he arrived as dean in 2007. Knowles couldn’t have known then that his tenure would be cruelly cut short as a result of the Occupy protest in 2011 but he can be proud that Carwood’s magnificent choir is his lasting legacy.

At the whispered opening it seemed the CBSO Chorus might be in danger of being overwhelmed, but when Spence rose to sing the first Owen setting, What Passing-Bells For These Who Die As Cattle?, we knew we were about to witness an extraordinary evening, more an act of remembrance than a mere concert. His admirable diction sent those haunting words out under the great dome like a clarion call across a battlefield. Back came the chorus with a wonderfully controlled, unaccompanied pianissimo Kyrie, before terrifying us in the explosive Dies Irae, the thrilling brass and percussion of the CBSO reminding us that this was their own piece – their 1960s counterparts played at the Coventry premiere.

Braun was equally intense in Be Slowly Lifted Up, while Dobraceva found her feet in the Lacrimosa, floating angel-like over the chorus before Spence shattered our hearts with Move Him Into the Sun, which brilliantly injects the senseless brutality of war directly into the comforting balm of the Latin mass. Gardner whipped up the Libera Me into a frenzy with Dobraceva fighting to be heard above a thundering bombardment of percussion, brass and chorus that gives way to the ultimate Owen poem, It Seemed That Out of Battle I Escaped. A dead British Tommy (Spence) meets a dead German soldier (Braun) who tells him: «I am the enemy you killed, my friend.»

Braun and Spence caressed the senseless pity of it all, lullabied to endless sleep by the In Paradisum of the chorus and boys’ choir. No wonder there was total silence at the end. Tears were never far away.

There was more poetry at Kings Place the following evening. Isobel Dixon read passages from her collection Dark Matters, an elegant supplement to an invigorating evening of new music exploring the concepts of space and time, presented by the Austrian contemporary music group Klangforum Wien.

If, like me, you struggle with particle physics, you should hear Roberto Rusconi’s De materia nigro et obscura, written to mark the confirmation of the Higgs boson in our understanding of the fundamental structure of matter. Rusconi takes a single block of sound (a particle) and spins from it a set of variations for piano quintet. Each has its own special character, stretching and extending the possibility of sound. There are moments of hesitation, of suggestion, of approach and withdrawal, making tremendous demands on the players. Gradually, Rusconi’s original block of sound reassembles itself after being subjected to his forensic dissection.

There was more ferocious playing in Bernhard Gander’s Khul, a simple anagram of Hulk, the Marvel Comics character, the alter ego of genius scientist Bruce Banner. Gander’s Hulk thrashes around in a tumult of double-stopped strings, screeching and wailing in a highly disciplined, carefully structured torment.

Fierce discipline is key to this music. Beat Furrer’s Spur sounds totally random but it requires the virtuosic talents of Klangforum Wien to make it work. Jagged fragments of sound gradually coalesce into patterns that suggest traces of 19th-century chamber music, but reinvented and reformed to offer a totally new experience. Let’s hope Klangforum Wien return to London soon and continue to open our ears to the future.

Source Article from

Friend sites: Baloncesto hoy | Guía TV | Futbol hoy | Futbol en la tele