Dagafsluiter: War Requiem

Britten schreef  het War Requiem ter gelegenheid van de inwijding van de nieuwe kathedraal van Coventry. De oude, uit de 14e eeuw stammende kathedraal werd op 14 november 1940 verwoest tijdens een Duitse luchtaanval, waarbij 568 mensen om het leven kwamen.

Britten – een overtuigd pacifist – kreeg volledig de vrije hand bij de compositie. Hij koos voor de vorm van de Latijnse dodenmis, afgewisseld met gedichten van de Engelse “oorlogsdichter” Wilfred Owen. Voor Crass-drummer Penny Rimbaud is het War Requiem hét hoogtepunt uit de Westerse muziekgeschiedenis: “It completely bowled me over. As a ‘war baby’ my early years had been filled with tales of war, all somewhat tinged with the ‘glory’ of it. The ‘War Requiem’ told a very different story. Britten’s passionate settings of Wilfred Owen’s profound (anti)war poems touched me deeply at every level and introduced me to ideas of pacifism which became so central both to my life and to my philosophy (even if at times I have doubted it!!). It was this piece of musical genius that taught me at a very early age that one could say ‘no’, and, indeed, had every right to do so”.


Chorus
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Chorus
Lord, grant them eternal rest;
and let the perpetual light shine apon them.
Boys
Te decet hymnus, Deus in Sion:
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem;
exaudi orationem meam,
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Boys
Thou shalt have praise in Zion, of God:
and homage shall be paid to thee in Jerusalem;
hear my prayer,
all flesh shall come before Thee.
Chorus
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Chorus
Lord, grant them eternal rest;
and let the perpetual light shine apon them.
Tenor
What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them at all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Chorus
Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison
Chorus
Lord, have mercy upon them
Christ, have mercy upon them
Lord, have mercy upon them