Zum Konzert am 12. Dezember 1963 in London
The Daily Telegraph, London, 14. Dezember 1963
Ideal setting for poems
Acoustics aid Owen work
The Festival Hall proved to be acoustically ideal for the chamber ensemble and the intimate settings of Wilfred Owen’s poems in Britten’s "War Requiem," which the composer conducted.
These parts of the work have never been heard so clearly or, for that reason, made anything like so great an effect at any other London performance of the work.
"Strange Meeting," in particular, gained a wholly new importance as sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, against held chords in which every note told, with that perfect blend of natural parlando and lyrical intensity that is made possible by a voice of great refinement perfectly controlled.
At the other end of the dynamic scale there was a formidable weight and volume of tone in his singing of "be slowly lifted up," which caught unmistakably the violence and horror of the music.
Heather Harper’s ringing tone and broad phrasing have become for many listeners so closely associated with the "Sanctus" and the "Lacrymosa" that they seem an integral part of the music.
In the same way the "Agnus Dei" is associated with Peter Pears’s ability to preserve a long sustained legato line with perfectly enunciated words.
The London Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble and the Bach Choir now know this work as few modern works are known by any chorus and orchestra in this country.
The result is a confidence in detail, a flexibility and a spontaneous generosity of tone which gave the composer that freedom of manipulation which is essential to the first-class performance of any work.
Sunday Times, London, 15. Dezember 1963
After its cathedral performances and those in the Albert Hall, Britten’s War Requiem reached the Festival Hall on Thursday. The house was packed, and could probably have been sold out twice over. The three soloists of the Coventry première, Heather Harper, Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, combined with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Bach Choir and two boys’ choirs in a completely assured performance of this masterpiece under its composer; the difficult synchronisation of the invisible boys with the forces on the platform was only one of many details which were perfectly managed.
Fine detail, indeed, rather than the heights and depths, spaces and perspectives, of the whole work, was what mainly emerged in the secular atmosphere and revealing acoustics of the hall. This time it was not the "Lacrymosa" or the "Libera me" that made the strongest impact, but the subtle beauty of the scoring for chamber orchestra and the singing of the two male soloists. Fischer-Dieskau, especially, encompassed an amazingly wide range of tone and emotion, from his thunderous curse on the "piece of artillery brought into action" to the searching inward meditations of the dead soldier in that strange subterranean no-man’s land conjured up by Owen and Britten; perhaps only someone as eminent as he in the different worlds of opera and Lieder could have succeeded equally in both.
The final quiet ensemble, in which a dream of peace seems to drift around the globe, made an even deeper impression than before because the many strands of the complex texture came through with unusual clarity.