Benjamin Britten's War Requiem of 1958 remains one of the composer's most popular works, and a host of new recordings and reissues surfaced in connection with the composer's centennial year of 2013. This one from conductor Antonio Pappano and musicians and singers from the venerable Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia has a satisfying way of seeming to reflect Britten's own aims for the work. There are smoother choristers in some of the purely English versions of the work. But internationalism was part of Britten's plan. He wrote the work for soloists from the countries of the wartime combatants: a Russian soprano (Galina Vishnevskaya), a British tenor (Peter Pears), and a German baritone (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau). Here the German baritone is replaced by American Thomas Hampson. But the fundamental contrasts Britten built into the work, among its three singers and among its various sections of text, are nicely realized. The highlight is Anna Netrebko in the Vishnevskaya soprano part. The soprano sections are restricted to the portions of the work drawn from the traditional Requiem mass, and Britten defines these as operatic in character. Those Latin texts are interspersed with poems by the antiwar World War I writer Wilfred Owen, who was killed in action a week before the armistice. The power of the work derives from its mixture of formal mourning and direct evocation of the experience of war, accomplished in the music as well as in the texts. This is a performance that brings that contrast to life. The dynamic level of the whole is extremely low, but the work's considerable dynamic range doesn't seem to be squeezed.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|War Requiem, Op. 66|