When Gianandrea Noseda brought the forces assembled here for this live recording of Britten's War Requiem to New York's Avery Fisher Hall in October 2011, Alex Ross, classical music critic for The New Yorker, described it as the finest performance of the piece he had heard, and the recorded performance made at the Barbican, London, the same month is exceptional on many counts. The problem with experiencing the power of the performance on the SACD lies in its acoustic; the piece is recorded at such a low level that it's necessary to crank the volume up far beyond normal listening levels for the performers not to sound remote and underpowered. Even at very high volume, the performers lack the feeling of presence and immediacy that must certainly have been conveyed in live performance. Even so, the strengths of the soloists, choirs, and orchestra, and of Noseda's assured understanding of the score, both in its larger architecture and its particulars, are striking. From the anguished opening, he maintains a taut line of tension throughout that pulls the listener suspensefully forward, even at the moments of the most stillness, toward a conclusion of overwhelming cathartic intensity. The London Symphony Orchestra plays with exquisite attention to detail and gorgeously varied timbral coloration. The London Symphony Chorus and the boys of the Choir of Elthan College sing with immaculate precision and a dramatic urgency that comes from their musically sensitive handling of the texts. Britten veterans tenor Ian Bostridge and baritone Simon Keenlyside deliver remarkable performances -- full-throated, fervent, and poetically eloquent -- and they sing with such clarity that every word is distinct. Soprano Sabina Cvilak is a relative newcomer, but her pure, full, richly colored tone and impassioned singing make her a worthy collaborator with Bostridge and Keenlyside. This is a terrific rendering of Britten's masterpiece whose impact is unfortunately blunted by the inadequate engineering.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
|War Requiem, Op. 66|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|War Requiem, Op. 66|