Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Culture Alert

The Milwaukee Symphony, its Chorus, the Milwaukee Children's Chorus, three soloists, and all kinds of extra percussion and brass players will perform Benjamin Britten's War Requiem on June 10th, 11th, and 12th (evening, evening, and matinee, respectively.) See: to order tix.

I have a minor niggle with the concert's billing as "The Pity of War." This is NOT a knee-jerk anti-war piece by any stretch of the imagination. Wilfred Owen, the highly-decorated Brit Army officer who wrote his poetry in the field, specifically alludes to the 'just war' theory.

What the Requiem is, however, is a monumental piece which clearly and very forcefully shows the pathos of deaths--particularly the deaths of WWI, arguably the most brutal of 20th century wars. Tactically, it was "send more men into the machine-gun field-of-fire until they run out of bullets." Not exactly a recipe for minimal casualties, eh wot?

Some will recall that Mel Gibson also made a movie about WWI's tactics.

In any case, the Requiem is a textbook example of writing music to fit the text. You can hear the big guns and the small arms; you can hear the souls of the dead examining their consciences on Judgment Day; you will hear the bugle-calls and the bird-calls from the fields.

It's also a stage-play, with no "acting;" just a couple of soldiers (one English, one German) singing poetry about war, until they both die in a battle (the 6th movement) and meet after their deaths, on their final journey.

Those of you with military associations will understand this work very well, particularly if you also have a musical bent.

Knowing what I know about Andreas Delfs, the conductor, this will be an electrifying concert, well worth the price of admission. Think about attending. SPECIAL NOTE: one hour before each concert there will be a discussion of "how the piece works" held in the Anello atrium of the PAC. Yours truly will be one of the presenters, along with a Ph.D. Literature and an MS Music. I'm there to hold their coats. We think the presentations will be helpful, particularly if you've never heard this piece before.

1 comment:

Bernard Brandt said...

If you have not already done so, and if you were present for that performance of Britten's War Requiem, I would be very interested in reading your review.

By the bye, I would very much like one of these days to see a performance of Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem, another excellent work in the same genre.