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Posted October 1, 2010
Kurt Masur is well familiar with this Benjamin Britten masterpiece WAR REQUIEM, having performed it often and even previously recording it with different forces (with the New York Philharmonic and soloists Carol Vaness, Jerry Hadley, and Thomas Hampson). This newly released CD benefits from several factors, not the least of which is that it is a live performance in Royal Festival Hall on May 8, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, that Masur is a peace activist as was the composer, and that the performances has three astonishingly fine soloists. Almost reverential in nature, Masur elects to stress the languid moments from the opening Requiem aeternam to the extraordinary closing of Auden's poem 'Strange Meeting' - the unearthly 'Let us sleep now'. The orchestra responds well to Masur's strong conducting, the chorus is for once not the overwhelming, huge force that buries the orchestra but instead a diction-perfect fine ensemble, and the soloists to a person are truly among the best ever. Much as we have all grown to love Galina Vishnevskya as the first soprano to sing the work on Britten's own recording, here the soprano solos are in the capable hands and heart of Christine Brewer who gives the finest, richest, most genuinely felt performance of these solos (especially the 'Lacrimosa') on recording. Hers is a voice as radiant and full as any major singer past and present: there is no squalling for the high notes or groveling for the low notes - simply gorgeous tone throughout the wide register of writing. She is splendid. Gerald Finley gives added meaning to his interpretation of Auden's poetry with his beautiful unstrained voice and impeccable diction. Likewise, Anthony Dean Griffey sings the difficult role written for Peter Pears with ease and again with perfect diction. There is an uncanny resemblance between his voice and that of Pears, a factor that adds a new dimension of drama to this recording. Yes, there are several excellent recordings of this compelling work and owning more than one is desirable. This particular recording is one of the very finest of the War Requiem and belongs in the collection of everyone's library. Highly Recommended on every level. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.