Benjamin Britten

Sinfonia da Requiem, for orchestra, Op. 20

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    Britten was approached to write an orchestral composition for an unidentified Great Power, to be ready in 1940. With war threatening all over the world, and reflecting on the loss of his father a few years earlier, Britten responded with a work in three linked movements, each titled with the name of a section of the Latin Mass for the Dead. Always a pacifist, Britten clearly was taking the occasion to state his protest. The first movement is full of the sounds of grief, beginning with a funeral march employing massive drum-beats, with a central section featuring a crying saxophone solo. The second movement is the only fast one, a "Dies Irae" that obviously depicts war in martial fanfares and explosions, ending in choas that threatens to tear the orchestra apart. This dies out and leads to "Requiem aeternam" in which an achingly beautiful theme on flutes brings, if not immediate consolation, a promise of peace to come. It is a strongly emotional and deeply personal work. As it turned out, the mysterious commission for the work came from the Japanese Empire, which had in mind to use it at ceremonies marking the 2,500th anniversary of the legendary date of the founding of the Imperial Dynasty. Japan rejected it with the explanation that its Christian basis made it incompatible with a Shinto celebration, so it was premiered in New York.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Lacrymosa
    2. Dies irae
    3. Requiem aeternam

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2017
    Berlin Classics
    0300890BC
    2015
    Warner Classics
    552758
    2013
    Heritage
    HTGCD 244
    2013
    Virgin Classics / Warner Classics
    5099973530121
    2013
    Various Artists
    Decca
    4785364
    2012
    Melba Recordings
    MR 301131
    2012
    Supraphon
    SU 40952
    2011
    PentaTone Classics
    PTC 5186393
    2010
    Haenssler
    94213
    2010
    Reference Recordings
    120
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    Denon Records
    2009
    EMI Classics
    5099924274
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099969557
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2009
    Documents/Membran / Membran
    231885
    2008
    Various Artists
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099921750
    2008
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099921752
    2008
    EMI Classics
    5868702
    2007
    Telarc Distribution
    60677
    2007
    Telarc Distribution
    80677
    2007
    Decca
    2007
    Decca
    4756051
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Naxos
    8557196
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    86871
    2005
    Berlin Classics
    0010972
    2003
    Testament
    1252
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    62616
    2003
    Erato
    2003
    Chandos
    5007
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243575868
    2003
    EMI Classics
    2001
    Virgin
    61835
    2001
    Music & Arts
    1079
    2000
    BBC Music
    4401
    2000
    NMC
    30
    2000
    Virgin Classics
    61195
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243573983
    1999
    BBC Music
    4013
    1998
    EMI Music Distribution
    72658
    1997
    EMI Music Distribution
    55394
    1995
    Naxos
    8 553107
    1994
    Capriccio Records
    428
    1993
    BMG
    61226
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    64870
    1991
    Chandos
    8983
    1989
    London
    4251002
    1980
    Tahra
    273
    BBC Music
    1001
    Reference Recordings
    120
    Collins Records
    10192
    Capriccio Records
    10428
    As Disc
    541
    IMP Classics
    9129