Zum Konzert am 1. September 1968 in Edinburgh

The Times, London, Datum unbekannt

A vital experience

It is currently thought cute to denigrate Benjamin Britten’s A War Requiem which has stirred so many people all over the world to a realization that making love is better than making war. […]

Britten composed it as an act of international contrition for past sins, and to this end designed the three solo vocal parts for Galina Vishnevskaya, a Russian soprano, Peter Pears, a British tenor, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a German baritone. Tonight in the Usher Hall, as the foreseeable climax of this Edinburgh Festival, they were all participating in a performance conducted jointly by Carlo Maria Giulini and the composer, with Scottish Festival Chorus, the boys of St. Mary’s Cathedral, and the New Philharmonia Orchestra. It was the finest, most emotionally impressive performance of this work (perhaps any work) I have ever heard: I wished that every statesman in the world could have been here to listen and ponder, and respond to what it says.


William Mann


     Daily Express, London, 2. September 1968     


Requiem that warns all humanity


What happened in Czechoslovakia ten days ago gave a new sense of urgency to the Edinburgh Festival performance of Benjamin Britten’s "War Requiem" at the Usher Hall last night.

For this work is a warning to humanity as well as a solemn prayer. It raises the ghosts of all those who "did not hate, but gave their lives" as a grim spectre of what could happen again.

The composer shared the conducting of a tense and emotional performance with Carlo Maria Giulini, directing the New Philharmonia Orchestra, the Melos Ensemble, the Scottish Festival Chorus and a boys’ choir from St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral.


And the soloists were the three distinguished singers for whom the solo music was originally composed - a Russian soprano, Galina Vishnevskaya; a British tenor, Peter Pears, and a German baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Their singing and that of the Scottish chorus - firm-toned and keen-edged - were musically the most rewarding contributions.

I had the impression that some of the orchestral playing was not as taut and responsive as it might have been.

But as the performance moved in changing perspective from the foreground soloists through the main body of choir and orchestra to the boys high in the topmost gallery and back, its nobility of musical spirit touched hearts and minds alike.

Noel Goodwin


     Daily Mail, Edinburg, 2. September 1968     


Futility of war driven home

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem: Usher Hall


Many people queued from morning to night, squatting on the pavement and enduring heavy rain, in order to participate in this event.

And perhaps this is the kind of penance we should all have paid, for the War Requiem is no mere performance to be enjoyed. Rather it is a pilgrimage in which, step by step, a profound preacher persuades us to pause and ponder upon the pity of war and the futility of war.

The experience is bitter and chastening. And though the superb artists who gave it completely deserved the prolonged applause at its end, a more apt action from all of us would have been to got quietly home … to pray.

Rarely can so distinguished a company have been assembled on one concert platform. Under the direction of three conductors - Carlo Maria Giulini, Benjamin Britten himself, and chorusmaster Arthur Oldham - were the superb Scottish Festival Chorus, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Melos Ensemble, and the boy choristers of St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral.

Was there meant to be some special significance in having the international line-up of soloists comprised of a Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya; an English tenor, Peter Pears, and a German baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau?

One could not but infer this as the tenor and baritone so tellingly sang the roles of the opposing soldiers who, having slain each other in battle, meet again in the peace beyond.

The soprano, too, sang with melting beauty, attaining a lovely liquid quality in the Lacrimosa, while the chorus were fully capable of every shade of expression between exultant fervour and the quietest sob.

David Harper


     The Scotsman, Edinburgh, 2. September 1968     


Giulini brings new poignancy to War Requiem

War Requiem: Usher Hall


Whatever one’s attitude to the pros and cons of the U.S.S.R. State Orchestra’s visit to Edinburgh, there could surely have been no division of opinion about the aptness of last night’s performance of the War Requiem by the New Philharmonia Orchestra and Melos Ensemble, the Scottish Festival Chorus and boys of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, with the three famous soloists - Russian, British,German - for whom Britten composed his eloquent plea for international peace but who have only rarely appeared in public together to sing it.



Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau were both clear, telling, sensitive to every nuance of Owen’s poems. Mr Fischer-Dieskau seemed even more than usually moved by the final lines of "Strange Meeting", reducing his voice to the softest and most tender ribbon of tone (a pity some members of the audience failed to restrain their coughing during this crucial passage) and providing here perhaps the most affecting moments of a powerfully affecting performance.

Conrad Wilson


     Zeitung unbekannt, 2. September 1968     


Expressive power of Britten’s requiem


The remarkable power of this work, shurely Britten’s greatest score after "Peter Grimes", is in the compassion which the composer feels for the horror and futility of war. At this time the performance has perhaps a special poignancy.


The two men soloists, Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, were happily matched. Fischer-Dieskau’s terrifying solo "Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm" is one of the magical moments of the score, as is the great cry "dies illa" in the "Dies irae", in which the clear and powerful voice of Galina Vishnevskaya soared above the great surge of warning sound from the chorus.

When the performance had ended, and the huge array of artists were joining in their tribute to the composer, one left the hall wondering which of the sections were the most beautiful, which the most effective.


M. L.

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