Opera Scotland

War Requiem 2022Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Read more about the opera War Requiem

At the time when this event was announced (April 2022), and still six months later when it was performed, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was in full swing, making this  fundamentally anti-war masterpiece even more relevant than ever.

The date of the Edinburgh performance could itself hardly have been more appropriate, with 11 November being the precise anniversary of the 1918 Armistice.  Appropriately, the performances were given in collaboration with PoppyScotland, and collectors werre much in evidence at the exits from the hall.

In recent years this hugely impressive piece seems to have become more popular, once again, after a lull.  It was greeted with rapture at its premiere in 1962, and was, for many years, seen as a very special and important work.  It has since then sometimes been criticized for its unevenness of inspiration.  However any faults were very well disguised at the Usher Hall performance.  Hints of reminiscence of orchestration from Billy Budd, another anti-war masterpiece, seemed perhaps more prominent than previously. 

The overall level of performance was consistently superb, with wonderful breath control from the chorus and an excellent orchestra.  The chamber ensemble of a dozen players was particular good, hardly surprising given that most of the orchestra's section principals were there, led by Maya Iwabuchi.  The children's chorus produced some beautifully ethereal sounds from high up in the balcony.

The baritone solos were composed for the legendary Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and here we had a young German baritone of more recent vintage in Benjamin Appl. Trained largely in London, he gave a moving rendering of the Owen texts.  Tenor Stuart Jackson warned us that he had a severe cold - always a useful precaution - but he sounded sweet-toned in Edinburgh.  Glasgow was another matter, and he may have been too tired to go on.  His replacement, Magnus Walker, seems to have slipped in to the ensemple without evident difficulty.  The soprano, a second German, Susanne Bernhard, was placed near the back of the orchestra, in front of the percussion, and was able to project with easy clarity.

In all this was a consistently excellent performance that did the work full justice on Remembrance Day.  Thomas Søndergård continues to show his great qualities as the orchestra's Music Director.

Performance DatesWar Requiem 2022

Map List

Usher Hall | Edinburgh

11 Nov, 19.30

Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow | Glasgow

12 Nov, 19.30

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