Britten: War Requiem

Available in Audiophile 96kHz/24bit

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℗ © 2013 Decca Music Group Limited

Galina Vishnevskaya, soprano
Sir Peter Pears, tenor
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
The Bach Choir & London Symphony Chorus
David Willcocks, chorus master
Highgate School Choir, directed by Edward Chapman
Simon Preston, organ
Melos Ensemble
The London Symphony Orchestra
Benjamin Britten, composer and conductor

Over half a century has passed since this classic DECCA recording was made in Kingsway Hall, London in January 1963. While the performance remains a benchmark, time has left the original analogue master tapes more fragile than ever. For this Britten centenary edition, DECCA has gone back to the original tapes and used the latest techniques and extensive comparison with the earliest LP pressings and subsequent remasterings, to make a definitive transfer. For the first time ever, all audio processing has been achieved in the 96 kHz 24-bit domain.

This particular recording of the War Requiem by Bejamin Britten is notable for a number of reasons. Britten himself was the conductor, and took painstaking care to ensure that the recording process captured his music as accurately as possible. Stereo recording was a relatively new invention in the early 1960s, and Britten wanted to take full advantage of its capabilities; he himself dictated where all of the musicians and various ensembles sat in the recording space so that the most desirable qualities of the music could be recorded. About the work itself, DECCA producer John Culshaw recalls:
"Everyone present had a sense of taking part in an historic occasion, and I think everyone worked with devotion...Of the work itself I can only say that, having lived with it very closely for about four months, and having heard it upwards of 50 times, its profound impact has not lessened for a moment; on the contrary, like all great music, it yields different values on each hearing. It is a very disturbing piece. The contrasts and indeed contradictions between the three planes of its structure give the War Requiem an extraordinary tension; and their conjunction in the final section of the work is anything but a facile reconciliation. Over these final pages stand, unheard and unset, the words of Wilfred Owen with which Benjamin Britten prefaced the score: 'All a poet can do today is warn.'"

--John Culshaw, Gramophone UK, June 13, 2013