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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WARS FOR FLAGS, 25 Sep 2005
By 
DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: War Requiem (Audio CD)
A great deal of careful planning has gone into this production. The work calls for a separate boys' choir and chamber orchestra in addition to the main forces, and the need to convey a sense of space has been taken very seriously. Apparently no church in all Scotland was considered large enough, and the recording was finally done in a converted large workshop at the site of the old Harland and Wolff shipyard in Clydebank, only half a mile from our family home when I was a boy. I find the result outstandingly successful. The sense of space and distance must surely have been what Britten was after, and it needs to be played at a high volume setting. This will not blow you out of the room or disturb the neighbours - Britten's Requiem is a much quieter piece in general than not only Verdi's but even Mozart's. Britten takes the text that Verdi took including the Libera me prayer from the graveside service and adds the In paradisum set by Faure although not by Verdi, and intersperses it with poems by Wilfred Owen. Despite the length of the text there is comparatively little repetition of words, and the overall duration of the work is only roughly similar to Verdi's.
For all the traditional text, this is not a traditional Requiem as even Verdi's was although he had little in the way of religious conviction. Owen's poems are the spiritual core of the War Requiem, the liturgical text serving as background. When the poet asks 'All death will He annul?' I sense that Britten's answer is 'Not likely'. Creation will not rise again to answer to any judge, and what we destroy stays destroyed. The nearest we are given to a pacifist's answer to the unsolved problem is in the lines addressed to the field-gun
Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great gun towering toward heaven, about to curse;
Reach at that arrogance which needs they harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse;
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!
Conductor, soloists and the Scottish ensembles cover themselves with distinction from start to finish. Speeds in some of the choral episodes are on the swift side, but that gives me no problem where the choral texts are something akin to a chain of linking recitatives. The soloists are worthy successors to Britten's own, the choral work is admirable and the BBC Scottish Orchestra is a fine band indeed these days. Above all, don't be nervous or hesitant about turning the volume up if you want to get the proper impact from the careful staging of the production.
Naxos - well done again, very well done indeed. There is not a recording of this great work that I know from any source, perhaps not even from Britten himself with Pears and Fischer-Dieskau, that I could recommend ahead of this one.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Budget edition but very good, 13 Nov 2004
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This review is from: Britten: War Requiem (Audio CD)
The Naxos version of Britten's War Requiem, although a "budget" edition is superb. The rich textures of the music and various vocal ensembles are unobtrusively evident. The balance is about perfect... all can be heard clearly and the atmosphere of this extremely powerful and highly emotive music is faithfully delivered. If you've never heard the War Requiem this is a good introduction at a very nice price. I'd still say the best version is the Rattle / CBO edition, but experiencing it live is overwhelming.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Recording of Britten's Masterpiece, 3 Dec 2004
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This review is from: Britten: War Requiem (Audio CD)
This is an exceptionally fine recording of Britten's great humanitarian masterpiece at a ludicrously low price. Fine performances all round and a luminous sound quality that allows the singers room to breathe. The boys choir could do to be a tad better defined in the sound picture but for the price this is an unbeatable recording that deserves a place in your collection.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, 28 Sep 2005
This review is from: Britten: War Requiem (Audio CD)
Sonically excellent, but compared to the Britten and even Rattle recordings it feels a little rushed in places, which I found removed some of the brevity and depth of the piece. It's also a little noisy (coughs and scrapes) which while unavoidable with forces this large, makes the sometimes rather abrupt cuts and edits very audible. On the other hand, it is a decent recording at almost a quarter of the price of the Britten orignial.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Music, 30 Sep 2006
By 
S. MCNALLY "machoolahan" (York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Britten: War Requiem (Audio CD)
"We laughed, knowing that better men would come,

And greater wars; when each proud fighter brags,

He wars on Death -- for lives; not men -- for flags."

Like another reviewer I first heard this when I was quite young, and despite its tritonal and sometimes arch intonality, it stuck like glue. Each time I hear it (and I'm 35 now) I hear something in it that moves me. Britten was a master of orchestral effects as the Dies Irae testifies but, exhilirating as these are it's the profound humanist anger of Wilfred Owen's poetry that first grabs you.

But then after that excoriating expression of the madness of war - set in a way that orchestrates the beauty of a male voice like nothing I've ever heard ever before, it's the quite stunning, stunning, soprano parts that stay with you. Absolutely hauntingly, disturbingly beautiful.

Arguably the finest composition of the 20th century.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Have yet to play full CD, 8 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Britten: War Requiem (Audio CD)
I was stimulated by a recent BBC programme on Requiems to collect those mentioned and have found them to be beautiful and satisfying (I have not yet listened to them all though).
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Britten: War Requiem
Britten: War Requiem by Benjamin Britten (Audio CD - 1996)
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