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Britten's War Requiem

Release September 17, 2013

© Chicago Symphony Orchestra 2013
All rights reserved



Benjamin Britten's choral masterpiece, War Requiem, is one of the most powerful statements in music about war and the pity of war. It was first performed on 30 May 1962 as part of celebrations to mark the opening of a new cathedral for the city of Coventry. The previous, medieval cathedral had been destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. Britten, a lifelong pacifist, took the opportunity presented by this important commission to create a very public expression of his beliefs. In a master stroke, he included texts by the First World War poet Wilfred Owen to provide an ironic commentary on the Latin Requiem Mass.

This video, by the Britten—Pears Foundation, explores the background to this iconic milestone of twentieth-century music.