St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, 14th November 2014:
It is perhaps three decades since Britten’s War Requiem was last heard in Belfast.
Last night, a sold out performance in St Anne’s Cathedral brought together the Ulster Orchestra with the RTE Concert Orchestra, the Belfast Philharmonic with the Leeds Philharmonic and the girl choristers of St Anne’s.
Jac van Steen masterfully conducted this massed musical array, joined by three fine soloists, Elizabeth Atherton (soprano), Benjamin Hulett (tenor) and Gavan Ring (baritone). The sandstone walls reverberated with the stark impact of Britten’s uncompromising music, his settings of Wilfred Owen’s poetry juxtaposing the comforting religious mythologies of the Latin Mass with the descriptive horror of military realities.
From the evocative ethereal sounds of the choir, the doom laden tolling of the bells, the weaponry of the percussion, the committed singing of the choirs, the powerful interjections of the soloists, accompanied throughout by the imaginative colourings of the orchestras and the ever present devil’s tritone, there was a pervasive feeling of rapt attention from the audience.
To experience a work of this magnitude is incomparable.