When The Subject Is War...Dutoit on Britten's "War Requiem"

May 8, 2017

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem is unusual—in form, in scope, and in message. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, the Latin Mass for chorus and orchestra is interspersed by English poetry about the brutality of war.

On Sunday, May 14th at 1 pm on WRTI, Charles Dutoit leads the Philadelphia Orchestra in a performance of Britten’s War Requiem.

Radio script: 

[MUSIC: Britten's War Requiem]

Susan Lewis: It’s a requiem like no other with chorus and boys choir, two orchestras, and soloists from three different nations.  A soprano sings the Latin mass; two men sing the words of Wilfred Owen, a poet and soldier killed at the age of 25, one week before the end of World War I. Britten described the English  poetry as "a kind of commentary on the Mass."

Charles Dutoit: The men are like two soldiers trying to understand the brutality and the nonsense of the war. 

[MUSIC: (Requiem text taken from Owen's poem, Strange Meeting)  “I am the enemy you killed my friend..”]

CD:  All these soldiers are killing each other because they are told to do that, but I’m sure most of them would prefer not to be in a situation like that.

SL: Britten’s piece, says Dutoit, reflects world problems then and now.

CD: Britten said, my subject is war. So I think it’s very appropriate to play a piece like this today, when the world is upside down, and no one knows where we go. It’s the war today, the war in the last century, you know. The wars we have been through. And who knows what is coming. 

SL:  Benjamin Britten composed the War Requiem for the 1962 reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral, which had been destroyed in World War II.