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Peter J. Rabinowitz
Fanfare, November 2013

The wrenching anniversary performance by Andris Nelsons, equally notable for the rhetorical force of its large paragraphs and for the precision of its details, will leave you shattered. © 2013 Fanfare

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International, January 2013

For this performance the soprano has been elevated above the other soloists and stands with the choir, while tenor and baritone are together—appropriately since they often duet, especially in the moving final setting of Strange Meeting. Of the three it’s Mark Padmore who deserves to be mentioned first, but the others are not far behind. Erin Wall projects the soprano part extremely well…

Orchestra and choirs played their parts admirably but the overall accolade…must go to Andris Nelsons for the wonderful way in which he holds the whole thing together. Even if the master tapes and all copies of every other performance were to crumble as my reel-to-reel tape of that first performance did, this 50th-anniversay recording would still provide us with a wonderful opportunity to see and hear Britten’s masterpiece.

The recorded sound is very good. The picture is crystal-clear.

Andris Nelsons slowly composes himself at the end of the music and there’s a huge pause before the well-deserved applause finally comes. Audience and performers alike must have been emotionally drained, such is the power of this performance. © 2013 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Matthew Richard Martinez, December 2012

The concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Benjamin Britten’s iconic War Requiem would be an auspicious event worth commemorating in high-definition and, aside from being an aural and visual pleasure, this War Requiem, led by Andris Nelsons, is an artistic triumph.

As far as War Requiems go, it is hard to compete with the first recording, led by the composer himself. This performance, featuring the orchestra that premiered the work, deserves to join its company. The contrasts and transitions between sections are so effectively done that the slower tempi seem all the more drastic and dramatic…this is a roller coaster of a War Requiem, but it is successful by the sheer capability and conviction of the artists.

Conductor Andris Nelsons…is able to coax the most lyrical and then the most ferocious sounds from his forces. The chorus’ diction is impeccable, particularly in a movement such as the “Confutatis” where the plosive consonants are unmistakable. The brass in the “Dies Irae” are thunderous and piercing. The freedom that Nelsons gives the music to accelerate and slow is well-planned as in the “Tuba mirum,” set to the “Dies irae” motive…Nelsons’ approach is fresh and completely convincing.

While all three soloists are more than satisfactory, there is one standout, tenor Mark Padmore. His wholly theatrical delivery is exceedingly moving as one can see his entire body involved in the text with meaningful gestures and engaging eye contact. The look he gives his comrade towards the end of “Strange Meeting” when the baritone sings “I am the enemy you killed, my friend,” is perfectly captured on video and exceedingly moving as the core motive for the entire piece. “Move him into the sun” is masterful in Padmore’s ability to draw the listener in in such a large acoustic. His youthful and clear tenor sound delivers the text with clarity. Soprano Erin Wall possesses a powerful voice with enough focus to sing Britten’s treacherous lines with fine accuracy, as in the “Liber scriptus” with its wide leaps. She is most successful in her moving contribution to the lamenting “Lacrimosa,” but her voice is large and versatile enough to be an enticing member of the trio.

Chorus and orchestra are supremely expert at this music and it would be hard to imagine better prepared or informed forces for this work. The chorus fills Coventry Cathedral with an awesome power at the conclusion of the “Sanctus” and their reduction to near nothingness at the end of the “Lacrimosa” brings chills. Despite their size, their nimbleness in “Quam olim Abrahae” achieves transparency through the fugue. The orchestra plays with a leanness that serves the score well. Their sensitivity in the “Libera Me,” while supportive, is entrancing. Nelsons’ ability to judge the landscape of the textures to make the most terrifying impact serve the score so well here as the percussion drives ever forward to an unavoidable “Dies illa.”

…this disc is a joy to the senses. The outstanding youth choir, singing from the back of the Cathedral, is heard from the rear channels in surround sound and blended beautifully with the front channels. This recording is a wonderful surround sound commitment of this piece which so decidedly deserves one. The results are a completely believable capturing of Coventry Cathedral’s acoustic. The camera work is beautiful…

…this is a magnificent recording and a worthy celebration of one of the most important musical creations of the 20th-century. As the music from the final chord fades, the seemingly eternal silence in the Cathedral is spine-tingling as the occasion, originality, and power of the music is not lost on any one person who was fortunate enough to attend. We are indeed fortunate to be able to share in it through this recording. © 2012 Read complete review

Lawrence Schenbeck
PS Tracks, December 2012

How do I know, deep inside, that this new Blu-ray is a keeper? Because when I watch it, the performance seems to envelope me in an intimate embrace…Because when I listen to it, I experience a kind of joy—I am lifted up…Because when I watch and listen, the whole thing is over in a heartbeat, even though I know it’s been an hour and a half since I sat down. Because these performers—conductor Andris Nelsons, tenor Mark Padmore, soprano Erin Wall, baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann, and the choirs involved—make it sound easy, almost spontaneous, though I know this is difficult music. © 2012 PS Tracks Read complete review

Kevin Filipski
The Flip Side, November 2012

Benjamin Britten’s powerful pacifist musical statement had its premiere in 1962 at Coventry Cathedral in the English midlands, and this May 30 Coventry performance—exactly 50 years later—is strongly paced by conductor Andris Nelsons, who leads the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, Youth Chorus and a trio of stellar soloists: Erin Wall, Mark Padmore and Hanno Muller-Brachmann. The music remains soul-stirring, and—with his operas Peter Grimes and Death in Venice—is the peak of Britten’s theatrical work. The Blu-ray image looks fine; the sound is extraordinarily detailed. © 2012 The Flip Side

Lawrence Devoe, November 2012

A requiem in name, this large work mixes the Latin liturgical text with poems by Wilfred Owen…In this 2012 commemorative performance, in the very same church as its premiere, the soloists are American soprano Erin Wall, English tenor Mark Padmore, and German baritone Hanno Muller-Brachmann…The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are led by its music director, Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons.

The rebuilt cathedral is a beautiful…venue and the cameras give us one gorgeous shot after another. Details are well managed and sharp with a good color palette…Close ups of maestro Nelsons reveal an almost beatific countenance as if in awe of what he and his forces were accomplishing.

Britten’s War Requiem is less about war than it is about war’s ultimate toll. There are moments of quiet and moving spirituality like the final “Let us sleep” tenor-baritone duet that find their way among the more declamatory sections of this 90 minute work. Britten does not quite let listeners forget the clangor of war in his orchestration and percussion while Owens’ poetry bears testimony to the horror and sorrow inherent in armed conflict. This new BD premiere offers a significantly different approach since maestro Nelsons restrains his forces in many of the sections, thus allowing their inner voices to be better appreciated. The soloists, perhaps not as well known as some of their predecessors, more than hold their own against the competition…a masterpiece can receive varied treatments and still emerge a masterpiece. That is what we get in this beautifully realized Arthaus Musik release that will go on my short list for the year! © 2012 Read complete review

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