War Requiem

I was listening to Kurt Masur in conversation with Andrew MacGregor this morning (16/07/2005) He is a fascinating figure given his experiences in the life and times he grew up. We learned that he fought in the German army and was one of few survivors from one battle in which he fought. In East Germany he worked in a devastated Dresden before taking up his post of DIrector of the Gewandhaus Orchestra in neighbouring Leipzig. Masur has long since been a champion of Mendelssohn in this context, reminding us that this Jewish composer was banned in Nazi Germany. The War Requiem also strikes a chord in him in its quest for peace. It’s first performance in Coventry in 1962 links it to Dresden in their shared experience of devastating aerial attacks.
I listened to the Coventry performance on the radio, but managed to get a ticket for it’s second, the London premier, in Westminster Abbey. I remember queuing outside on a foggy December evening. Britten himself was present and his slight figure accompanied the Queen Mother in procession following this moving occasion. Even then I was feeling that the Royal occasion, connected as it is with the military, was at odds with the pacific nature of this work which Masur placed along side the Missa Solemnis and St Matthew Passion.

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