A Classical Music Blog by TIM MANGAN
Students lift Britten’s ‘War Requiem’. Orange County Register, Nov. 25, 2013.
classical music, reviews
Britten, James Conlon
December 2, 2013
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Unfortunately I was not able to attend these concerts but I read in another report that Maestro Conlon conducted this entire opus all by his lonely self which I think is quite rare for a live performance of this piece – usually there is a second conductor for the chamber ensemble. If that is true, then I am surprised that Tim did not mention this in his review. Nearly fifty years ago I participated in a performance of this huge piece as a member of a children’s choir and I think we even had a third conductor helping to lead us because we the kids were located up in the balcony above the stage and there were no video monitors available. We sang our Latin texts with very little understanding of their meaning but I still remember that the entire piece made a very strong impression on me even then.
Hmmm. I’ve not seen the piece performed much, but don’t remember ever seeing two conductors. (The premiere had two though, one of them Britten.) Yeah, maybe I should have noted Conlon’s solo performance. The conductor of the children’s choir did do a little work, now and then.
The reason for two conductors is to provide space between the two male soloists, which are accompanied by a chamber orchestra (13 players) led by one conductor, and the soprano soloist and adult choir, which are led by another conductor. I have seen it done with two conductors and, aside from the fact that the composer wrote the piece that way, the spatial separation can be quite effective. In a published interview, James Conlon said he prefers to conduct the entire piece himself. Recent performances in Chicago and San Francisco were also led by one conductor. FTR: the Disney Hall concert had Anne Tomlinson leading her Los Angeles Children’s Chorus from a top rear balcony at Disney Hall.
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