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Britten: War Requiem

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
Kurt Masur had many competitors but only two real challengers in his 2005 recording of Britten's "War Requiem": Britten's 1963 recording and his own 1998 recording. Britten, of course, was also the work's composer, and his powerful, soulful, and overwhelmingly moving recording remains the definitive realization of his intentions. Masur, while not the work's composer, is a much more accomplished conductor, and his 1998 recording with the New York Philharmonic, plus three American-born soloists is arguably as powerful, as soulful, and in its way nearly as moving as Britten's. So how does his 2005 recording with the London Philharmonic plus three British-born soloists ...
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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Leonard
Kurt Masur had many competitors but only two real challengers in his 2005 recording of Britten's "War Requiem": Britten's 1963 recording and his own 1998 recording. Britten, of course, was also the work's composer, and his powerful, soulful, and overwhelmingly moving recording remains the definitive realization of his intentions. Masur, while not the work's composer, is a much more accomplished conductor, and his 1998 recording with the New York Philharmonic, plus three American-born soloists is arguably as powerful, as soulful, and in its way nearly as moving as Britten's. So how does his 2005 recording with the London Philharmonic plus three British-born soloists compare with his 1998 New York recording? Masur's performance from 2005 sounds less powerful -- his tempos are broader, and his textures are heavier -- and less soulful -- the soloists, while no less skillful and dedicated, are less immediately engaging -- but perhaps more moving. Masur, older and less robust than he once was, sounds here more focused on expressing the "War Requiem"'s pacifist message. One may regret that the London Philharmonic Orchestra's playing is less polished and the London Philharmonic Chorus' singing is less refined than its New York competitors, and that Masur's own conducting is less vigorous than it once was, one can only admire its intensity and sincerity. LPO Live's sound is rough and ready, but vivid.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 7/25/2006
  • Label: London Philharmonic
  • UPC: 854990001109
  • Catalog Number: 10
  • Sales rank: 116,003

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Kurt Masur Primary Artist
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A More Contemplative War Requiem

    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 Harp

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