14 September 2012

Benjamin Britten - Sinfonia da Requiem

I realised that I haven't written any proper posts on Benjamin Britten yet, which is a bit silly because he is actually one of my favourite composers. My lack of writing on him is partly because I love his operas so much and I don't yet know how to post on opera in here, and how to do the genre justice (I'm sure some posts on opera will appear soon though). Of course 2013 is going to be Britten-year which is rather exciting! Peter Grimes on the beach at Aldeburgh! How amazing will that be? Very, I tell thee.

Anyway, for now I'd like to talk about Britten's Sinfonia Da Requiem - not to be confused with his actual requiem which I did write about briefly here. The Sinfonia da Requiem is more of a symphony, and is in fact the largest purely orchestral piece Britten wrote. The origin of the piece is somewhat interesting, as it's reported that Britten originally started writing it as a requiem to his parents, as a reaction to WWII and expression of his own pacifism (also very apparent in the War Requiem but also after being commissioned (via the British consulate) to write a piece for Japan. The Japanese didn't seem to approve of the piece as it was considered to gloomy and Christian for their particular celebration, and then Pearl Harbour happened which obviously put a damper on the Britain-Japan relations. The piece was therefore premiered in New York, in March 1941.

My favourite part is the second, "Dies Irae" (as always) - but thankfully youtube has a video of the entire thing:

Benjamin Britten - Sinfonia da Requiem (I Lacrimosa, II Dies Irae, III Requiem Aeternam)

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was an English composer who's definitely most well-known for his operas (including Peter Grimes, The Turn of the Screw, Death in Venice and The Rape of Lucretia) and his War Requiem. In general his compositions for voice (so the operas, cantatas, songs etc) are to die for. He was really good friends with Mistislav Rostropovich and his wife Galina Vishnevskaya and of course Shostakovich, who admired him greatly. In fact, Britten conducted the first non-Russian premiere of Shostakovich's Symphony No.14. He and his partner Peter Pears launched the Aldeburgh Festival which is still going strong to this day. Here is my favourite picture of him, with Galina Vishnevskaya:

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