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 Label Catalog #
    2017 Berlin Classics 0300890BC
    2015 Warner Classics 552758
    2013 Heritage HTGCD 244
    2013 Virgin Classics / Warner Classics 5099973530121
    2013 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 / Warner Classics 5099924274
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099969557
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Documents/Membran / Membran 231885
    2008 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