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War Requiem

The War Requiem is a requiem composed by Benjamin Britten for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral on May 30, 1962 following its destruction during the Battle of Britain in World War II.

The requiem was written for soprano, tenor and baritone soloists, choir, boys' choir and orchestra. The soprano soloist and choir sing the traditional latin requiem setting; interspersed throughout, the tenor and baritone sing poems by Wilfred Owen. The overall effect is sombre and Britten presents war as both devastating and futile.

For the opening performance, it was intended that the soloists should be Galina Vishnevskaya[?] (a Russian), Peter Pears (an Englishman) and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau[?] (a German), to demonstrate a spirit of unity. Unfortunately the USSR did not permit Vishnevskaya to travel to Coventry for the event and, at short notice, she was replaced by Heather Harper[?].

A famous recording, featuring Vishnevskaya, Fischer-Dieskau and Pears, with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Britten, was produced in 1963. Another recording, featuring Elisabeth Söderström[?], Robert Tear[?] and Thomas Allen[?], with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle is available.

An interpretation of Britten's War Requiem was performed by the English Chamber Choir[?] at Your Country Needs You, an evening of 'voices in opposition to war' organised by The Crass Collective in November 2002.

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