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The Idea Was Good: The Story of Britten's War Requiem Paperback – 30 Apr 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Worcestershire Press (30 April 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0954419715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954419714
  • Product Dimensions: 18.5 x 1.3 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 892,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Entartete Musik on 20 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback
Britten's War Requiem is a difficult work. It stares right down the barrel of the moral gun, while addressing central concerns within the composer's life. As a conscientious objector, the message of peace over violence had particular power. The work's premiere in Coventry Cathedral 50 years ago provided fitting psychogeography for its message, while the line-up of soloists - one from Russia, one from Britain, one from Germany - offered vocal détente.

In creating a memoir of that first performance, for which Galina Vishnevskaya was sadly not allowed to attend, Coventry Cathedral Books and author Michael Foster could have easily dodged issues and created a one-sided souvenir, yet their new publication is marked by admirable breadth and depth of approach.

Foster looks at the work in the widest context, looking at the history of the Requiem Mass - including comparisons with Brahms's German Requiem at which Britten would have blanched - and the composer's own difficult relationship with the authorities and the subject of war. Furthermore, Foster underlines the tradition of British musical acts of remembrance, from Elgar's Spirit of England via Bliss and Foulds to Vaughan Williams' Dona nobis pacem.

Rather than a one-off, the War Requiem is part of Britten's on-going investigation into issues of power and peace and Foster not only looks at well-known works, but also at putative, abandoned and less-celebrated projects. Written with the intent of educating rather than assuming, true Britten cognoscenti will already know much of what is presented here. Yet the approachability and clarity of the text and the sweeping history of this work make for an impressive well-illustrated volume.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By JBingham on 6 Feb 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm currently working on my final year dissertation and was recommended this by Simon Holsey, CBSO chorus director. The history of the War Requiem has already been well documented, most notably by Mervyn Cooke. However, the history of the work is still a marvellous read and Foster presents it in an academically sound but not overly dense fashion. Nevertheless, this is not simply regurgitation of old news. This book comes from a suitable angle of '50 years on' would recommend this as reading for pleasure and for research.
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