Britten’s War Requiem


In an evening united by poets and music, the MSO reminded us how art can serve as a warning against war.

‘My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity…All a poet can do today is warn.’ Wilfred Owen’s words were written by composer Benjamin Britten on the front page of the score of War Requiem. In these days of hero worship and glorification, the pity—the realities in the stories of war are often forgotten but they underlined the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s commemorative program of the Great War.

The first piece, Elegy, by Australian–born F.S. Kelly is a wonder. Written as a memorial for poet Rupert Brooke, a friend and fellow soldier killed during WWI, Kelly finished Elegy while recovering from wounds he received at Gallipoli. He premiered the piece at 10 Downing St in 1916, before being killed himself at the Battle of the Somme.

The MSO’s performance of Elegy was enrapturing and immediately set the tone for the evening. From sombre though languid beginnings the piece then lifts, like the light fluttering of the wings of birds and ends as if in a dance. A dance of life and death perhaps. It is iconic with both its story and its quiet but powerful embrace, and I’m astounded it’s taken so long for the MSO to perform it.

continue reading the review at Artshub

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