RSNO: Britten’s War Requiem, Usher Hall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Thomas Sondergard
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Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Britten, War Requiem
Thomas Søndergård (conductor), Susanne Bernhard (soprano), Stuart Jackson (tenor), Benjamin Appl (baritone), RSNO Youth Chorus (Patrick Barrett, Director), RSNO Chorus (Stephen Doughty, Director).
Running time

On Remembrance Day what was more appropriate than Britten's War Requiem. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra's Music Director, Thomas Søndergård, was conducting eighty five players of the main orchestra with twelve principal players to his right as a chamber orchestra. Behind the main orchestra were the one hundred and sixteen members of the RSNO Chorus, whilst behind his back and high up in the Grand Circle foyer were eighty three members of the RSNO Youth Chorus. Thomas Søndergård didn't disappoint, far from it - his sense of timing for a requiem full of contractions was admirable.

Benjamin Britten was above all a pacifist. He was commissioned to write his War Requiem for the consecration of a new Coventry Cathedral in 1962 to replace an ancient building more or less destroyed by aerial bombing in 1940. One time Edinburgh architect, Basil Spence, as a junior partner with Rowand Anderson and Balfour Paul, was its architect, and Britten was the up and coming composer of choice.

Susanne Bernhard was the soprano standing at the side of the main orchestra singing in Latin the Mass for the Dead, whilst tenor Stuart Jackson and baritone Benjamin Appl were accompanied by the chamber orchestra singing in English nine interspersed uncomfortable and challenging poems of Wilfred Owen. If there was any comfort it came from the Youth Chorus accompanied by a sometimes perhaps too powerful chamber organ. Stephen Doughty, on his first outing as Chorus Director, can be proud of his team. So too Patrick Barrett; sitting as I was in the grand circle is was so good to see the Youth Orchestra come down beside us to take their share of the applause at the end.

Event: Friday 11th November 2022 at 7.30pm