• The University and the OSPA join the centenary of Britten with the "Music and War" program

    November 19, 2013

    The initiative includes two concerts and conferences to approach the works of the English composer in the centenary of his birth

    From left to right, Ana Mateo, Rossen Milanov, Vicente Domínguez and Esteban Miranda.

    The Symphonic Orchestra of the Principality of Asturias and the University of Oviedo join this week the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten with a cultural program based on the War Requiem. Master Rossen Milanov will direct two concerts: the first one will take place next Friday, November 22, the birthday of the British composer; the second one will take place the following day, on Saturday, November 23. Both will be performed at the Príncipe Felipe Auditorium of Oviedo at 8 PM.

    The academic institution collaborates with this initiative with two conferences offered by María encina Cortizo, professor of the Department of Art History and Musicology of the University of Oviedo. With a conference titled "Passing bells for these who die as cattle": Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, the professor will approach these great symphonic-choral works on November 20 at 8 PM, in the Main Hall of LAUDEO Cultural Center of University Extension, Oviedo; and on November 26, at the same hour, at the conference hall of the Old Institute Cultural Center of Gijón.

    The program was presented this morning by the manager of the OSPA, Ana Mateo; the Vice-Rector for University Extension and Communication, Vicente Domínguez; Master Rossen Milanov, and the director of the Chorus of the Prince of Asturias Foundation, José Esteban Miranda. Vicente Domínguez remarked that this initiative will continue with other collaborations centered on the Music and War cycle that the OSPA has scheduled for the 2013-2014 season.

    The War Requiem is one of the most important works of the 20th Century and a noteworthy appeal for peace by Britten. To perform it, the OSPA will extend its staff to 86 teachers, alongside three soloists and the Chorus of the Prince of Asturias Foundation and its junior section, which amounts to 124 voices. The soloists that will participate in this program are the Russian soprano Evelina Dobraceva; the Irish tenor Robin Tritschler and the German baritone Stephan Genz.

    A bit of history

    The War Requiem was born many years after the terrible period of War Wold II, during the sixties, by demand. The city of Coventry, which had been massively bombarbed by the Luftwaffe, had its cathedral almost completely destroyed on November 14, 1940. As a consequence, after the war had ended, the city decides to build a new cathedral and to keep the remains of the old one as a symbol of reconciliation and to remember the conflict.

    Its architect, Basil Spence, decides to employ local artisans and artists to decorate the new temple, and for its re-consecration, he tasks Benjamin Britten with the composition of a new work, with the only imposition that it lasts between thirty and fourty minutes.

    The consecration of the new cathedral took place on May 25, 1962, among a true art festival. Britten wished that the soloist parts of his work were performed by three performers that came from three nations that had been heavily involved in World War II: Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, tenor Peter Pears and the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Unfortunately, the Russian government prevented Vishnevskaya from participating in the inauguration, and she had to be replaced by Heather Harper.

    To compose the War Requiem, Britten used the Latin text of the Missa pro defuncis, but he adds, as a true trope, nine poems by one of the best poets of the First World War, Wilfren Owen. This poet, who died in 1918 at the age of 25, one week before the War finally came to an end, when his batallion desembarked in the north-western area of France, wrote during the last two years of his life a series of poems that constitute "a desperate cry against the inhumanity of humankind against humankind", as Mervyn Cooke puts it.