The day before Remembrance Sunday, which this year will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One, 300 musicians from the combined forces of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, Choristers of Liverpool Cathedral, NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Knabenchor Hannover, and a team of world-class soloists come together in the awe-inspiring space of Liverpool Cathedral to perform Britten’s War Requiem (November 10).
It is preceded the week before by a performance in Hannover’s Kuppelsaal with 470 musicians, and choristers drawn from the Liverpool and Hannover orchestras and choirs (November 3).
War Requiem has become one of the great works of the 20th Century, and of all British music, a timeless and profoundly moving exploration of man’s inhumanity to man.
Britten intended the work as a gesture of reconciliation and in that spirit it was Andrew Manze, recently announced as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor, and Principal Conductor of NDR Radiophilharmonie, who invited the orchestras and choristers of the two UNESCO Cities of Music to unite to mark this significant historical anniversary with Britten’s universal work.
On the title page of the score, Britten quoted war poet Wilfred Owen, who grew up in Birkenhead and was killed in action in 1918, aged 25, "My subject is war and the pity of war." Britten drew on Owen’s poems, fused with the traditional Latin texts throughout the work.
On performing Britten’s War Requiem in Hannover and Liverpool, conductor Andrew Manze said:
"Over the last few years I have got to know the players and singers of Liverpool and Hannover very well and I find that they have a lot in common both as musicians and as warm, caring human beings. For me, uniting these great musical forces from Britain and Germany has profound symbolism as once-hostile countries rehearsing and performing Britten’s landmark War Requiem together in two UNESCO Cities of Music.
"Both Wilfred Owen and Britten were pacifists, raging against man’s inhumanity to man. Whilst war and conflict continues around us today, War Requiem resonates as powerfully as ever as a sign of reconciliation, bringing us together to hear great music that moves us and challenges us to think of the impacts of our actions at a time of remembrance. So I have a strong instinct that these concerts will be special, memorable events in the lives of all the participants and listeners."
Liverpool 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of that momentous year, looking to the future with a year-long program that celebrates the city’s culture and creativity, including the Brittle Heart season of concerts and events, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
Learn more at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic website.