War Requiem

Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

Original Recording Format: DXD
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Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra,
Netherlands Radio Choir & Netherlands Children’s Choir
Jaap van Zweden
Reinbert de Leeuw
Conductor Netherlands Radio Choir: Celso Antunes
Conductor Netherlands Children’s Choir: Wilma ten Wolde
Evelina Dobracheva soprano
Anthony Dean Griffey tenor
Mark Stone baritone

During the late 14th and early 15th centuries, a church dedicated to the Archangel Michael was erected in Coventry. In 1918, it was designated a cathedral. The cathedral was almost entirely destroyed during a German air raid in 1940, with only the outer walls, bell tower and tomb of the first bishop remaining intact. These were preserved as a memorial. In the 1950s, the decision was made to incorporate the ruins in a new building. The first stone was laid by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956 and the new cathedral opened on May 25, 1962. Five days later, it was musically inaugurated with Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, in a performance broadcast live by the BBC.

At the time, Britten was probably the only British composer able to strike a collective chord with his countrymen – even though in his operas, he always sided with eccentrics and outcasts. As a pacifist and homosexual, he had been personally familiar with the conflict between the individual and establishment since the 1930s. Yet Britten was not a political activist, for he was decidedly a member of a generation that held its peace when confronted with the dark aspects of community, family or the military. Artistically, however, Britten was an activist, as witness his antithetical heroes: Peter Grimes, Albert Herring, Billy Budd and Owen Wingrave. At times, his political message was so encoded that it seemed like a message in a bottle for a better future.

Britten’s political consciousness embedded a number of these hidden messages in the War Requiem in a way that only like minds would recognize themselves as being addressed. Take for instance the soloists he had in mind for the premiere of the War Requiem. To the soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, he confided that he wanted to bring together three soloists here as representatives of the countries that had suffered most in the war. Britten was thinking of an Englishman (the tenor Peter Pears), a German (the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) and a Russian (Vishnevskaya). The soloist group in no way reflected the Allied forces. On the contrary, they were former enemies that came to stand before an imaginary reconciliation committee. Take for instance the last movement, Libera me, in which a fallen British soldier talks with a German soldier he has killed. Such understanding between enemies was bound to lead to problems. The Soviet authorities thought it was inappropriate for Vishnevskaya to perform under such circumstances with a German and an Englishman. The combination of “‘Cathedral’ & Reconciliation with W. Germany” (as Britten called it) went too far. A replacement had to be found, and Heather Harper had but 10 days to learn the part.




Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
War Requiem op. 66 - Requiem aeternam (Introitus and Kyrie)
War Requiem op. 66 - Dies irae
War Requiem op. 66 - Offertorium
War Requiem op. 66 - Sanctus
War Requiem op. 66 - Agnus Dei
War Requiem op. 66 - Libera me

Total time: 01:22:36

Additional information





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Mastering Engineer

Bert van der Wolf



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Original Recording Format


Gerard Westerdaal

Recording Engineer

Gert Altena, Frank van Kleef

Recording location

Vredenburg Utrecht Holland

Recording Software


Recording Type & Bit Rate


Release DateJune 24, 2014

Press reviews

Music Web International

There is so much to admire in this recording

BBC Music Magazine

van Zweden is calm, purposeful, unexaggerated

BBC Music Magazine

impressive recording


Samenvattend lijkt dit vooral een integer souvenir voor diegenen die in de zaal aanwezig waren. Als bonus krijgt die dan een helder, Nederlandstalig verhaal mee over Brittens concept en de curieuze perikelen rondom de wereldpremière in 1962.

All things put together, this album seems an integer souvenir for the ones who were present at the concert. As a bonus, one gets a clear, Dutch story with that about Brittens concept and the curious perils around the world premiere in 1962.

Mania Klassiek

Van Zweden weet vanaf het begin de dreigende sfeer moeiteloos op te bouwen en een sublieme live uitvoering neer te zetten. Deze uitvoering kan zich absoluut meten met de opname die Britten in 1963 van het War Requiem maakte.

Van Zweden knows how to build up the threatening atmosphere easily from the beginning and performs a sublime live performance. This interpretation can be measured absolutely to the recording Britten made of his War Requiem in 1963.

De Gelderlander

Een monumentale dodenmis die bekend zou worden als het War Requiem. […] In 2012 dirigeerde Jaap van Zweden een veel geroemde uitvoering met het Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, het Groot Omroepkoor en het Nationaal Kinderkoor.

A monumental requiem which would become known as the War Requiem. […] In 2012 Jaap van Zweden conducted a much praised performance with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Choir and the National Children’s Choir.


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