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War Requiem

Benjamin Britten
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abbado
Musica classica contro la guerra

Vai al testo
[1962]

Coventry Cathedral
Coventry Cathedral
The War Requiem was written for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral (the old cathedral is pictured at left), and was first performed there 30 May 1962. Coventry Cathedral had been destroyed during the Battle of Britain in World War II. Britten was commissioned to write a piece for the ceremony marking the completion of a new cathedral, designed by Basil Spence, built along side the the ruins of the original millenium-old structure. Since the work was to be performed inside the new cathedral, it was a good acoustic challenge for Britten. The ceremony was comprised of several works, including Tippett's opera King Priam.

The War Requiem was not meant to be a pro-British piece or a glorification of British soldiers, but a public statement of Britten's anti-war convictions. It was a denunciation of the wickedness of war, not of other men. The fact that Britten wrote the piece for three specific soloists -- a German baritone (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau), a Russian soprano (Galina Vishnevskaya), and a British tenor (Peter Pears) -- demonstrated that he had more than the losses of his own country in mind, and symbolized the importance of reconciliation. (Unfortunately Vishnevskaya was not available for the first performance, and had to be replaced by Heather Harper). The piece was also meant to be a warning to future generations of the senselessness of taking up arms against fellow men.

It was dedicated to four of Britten's friends who were killed during World War I:

Roger Burney, Sub-Lieutenant, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Piers Dunkerley, Captain, Royal Marines
David Gill, Ordinary Seaman, Royal Navy
Michael Halliday, Lieutenant, Royal New Zealand Volunteer Reserve

The first London performance was on 6 Dec 1962, in Westminster Abbey. The Decca recording that we have used was recorded in 1963. The work received immediate critical acclaim and was hailed as a masterpiece. It was widely performed both in Britain and abroad. Perhaps the combination of English poetry with the familiar text of the Latin mass made the Requiem accessible to such a range of listeners and caused it to be so well received.

Later, the War Requiem was incorporated into a movie with the same name. The movie, which would have otherwise been silent, is a strange, dark work. Most of it seems completely pointless, which leaves one wondering if that was the intention -- to show how pointless war is.

The Text.

For the text of the War Requiem, Britten interspersed the Latin Mass for the Dead with nine poems written by Wilfred Owen, a World War I footsoldier who was killed a week before the Armistice. In total contrast to The Spirit of England, written by Britten's compatriot Edward Elgar, the War Requiem was a decidedly antiwar piece. The Spirit of England was also an epic work in which poetry was set to music, but it brought forth quite a different message.

Wilfred Owen's poetry is strange, and interesting. "I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. Yet these elegies are to this generation in no sense conciliatory. They may be to the next. All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful."

-Wilfred Owen.

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~tan/Britten/britwar.html


LA “MESSA DA REQUIEM PER LA GUERRA” DI BENJAMIN BRITTEN

La “Messa da Requiem per la Guerra” fu composta per la riconsacrazione della cattedrale di Coventry (la vecchia cattedrale è raffigurata sopra), e fu eseguita per la prima volta il 30 maggio 1962. La cattedrale di Coventry era stata distrutta durante la Battaglia d’Inghilterra, durante la seconda guerra mondiale; è noto che la città era stata totalmente rasa al suolo, tanto da aver dato addirittura origine al verbo “to coventrize” (passato anche in italiano: “coventrizzare”), come sinonimo di “radere al suolo con bombardamenti aerei”. Benjamin Britten fu incaricato di comporre un brano per la cerimonia che segnava il completamento della nuova cattedrale, progettata da Basil Spence, costruita accanto alle rovine dell’edificio originale vecchio di mille anni. Poiché il brano doveva essere eseguito nella nuova cattedrale, si trattò di una notevole sfida acustica per Britten. La cerimonia si articolava in diverse esecuzioni, compresa l’opera contro la guerra King Priam di Sir Michael Tippett.

La “Messa da Requiem per la Guerra” non intendeva essere un brano a gloria della Gran Bretagna e dei suoi soldati, ma una pubblica affermazione delle convinzioni contro la guerra di Britten. Si trattava di una denuncia della malvagità della guerra, e non di altri uomini. Il fatto che Britten avesse composto il brano per tre solisti specifici –il sommo baritono tedesco Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, la soprano russa Galina Višnevskaja e il tenore britannico Peter Pears- dimostrava che, per l’autore, non contavano soltanto le perdite e le sofferenze del suo paese, e voleva essere un simbolo di riconciliazione. Sfortunatamente, Galina Višnevskaja non era disponibile per la prima, e dovette essere sostituita da Heather Harper. Il brano voleva essere anche un monito per le future generazioni sull’insensatezza di prendere le armi contro i propri simili.

Fu dedicato da Britten a quattro suoi amici caduti durante la Prima guerra mondiale:

Roger Burney, sottotenente della Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Piers Dunkerley, capitano dei Royal Marines
David Gill, marinaio semplice della Royal Navy
Michael Halliday, tenente della Royal New Zealand Volunteer Reserve

La prima londinese ebbe luogo il 6 dicembre 1962 nell’Abbazia di Westminster. La registrazione Decca che abbiamo usato fu effettuata invece nel 1963. L’opera fu subito acclamata dalla critica e fu salutata come un capolavoro. E’ stata da allora largamente eseguita sia in Gran Bretagna che all’estero. Fu forse proprio la combinazione tra la poesia inglese con il familiare testo della messa da requiem latina che rese la “Messa da Requiem per la guerra” accessibile ad un vasto pubblico procurandole una tanto calorosa accoglienza.

In seguito, la “Messa da Requiem per la Guerra” fu incorporata in un film dallo stesso titolo. Il film, che altrimenti sarebbe stato muto, è un’opera cupa e strana. In massima parte appare completamente senza alcun senso, il che fa chiedere se la sua intenzione non fosse proprio quella di mostrare quanto la guerra sia insensata.

Il testo.

Per il testo della “Messa da Requiem per la Guerra”, Britten intercalò il testo della messa da requiem latina con nove poesie scritte da Wilfred Owen, un fante della Prima guerra mondiale che trovò la morte una settimana prima dell’armistizio. In totale contrasto con “The Spirit of England” del conterraneo Edward Elgar, il “War Requiem” è decisamente un’opera contro la guerra. “The Spirit of England” è pure un brano epico consistente in poesie messe in musica, ma il suo messaggio è totalmente differente.

La poesia di Wilfred Owen è strana e assai interessante. Come lui stesso ebbe a dichiarare: “Non sono interessato alla poesia. Il mio argomento è la guerra, e la pietà in guerra. La poesia sta nella pietà. Eppure queste elegie non sono in alcun modo concilianti verso questa generazione. Lo potranno essere verso la prossima. Tutto quel che un poeta può fare è ammonire. E’ per questo che i veri poeti devono essere sinceri.”
-Wilfred Owen.

Indicazioni sull’inserimento del testo:
Le parti in latino sono seguite immediatamente dalla versione inglese inserita tra [parentesi quadre] nel corpo del testo, tratta dal sito di riferimento. Per le parti inglesi e latine verrà in seguito fornita una traduzione italiana separata.

WAR REQUIEM
[ Requiem Aeternam | Dies Irae | Offertorium | Sanctus | Agnus Dei | Libera me ]


I. REQUIEM AETERNAM

Chorus
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

[Chorus
Lord, grant them eternal rest;
and let the perpetual light shine upon them.]

Pueri:
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 horizons
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]


II. DIES IRAE

Chorus
Dies irae, dies illa,
Solvet saeclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando Judex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!
Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum
Coget omnes ante thronum.
Mors stupebit et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Judicanti responsura.

[Chorus
This day, this day of wrath
Shall consume the world in ashes,
As foretold by David and Sibyl.
What trembling there shall be
When the judge shall come
To weigh everything strictly.
The trumpet, scattering its awful sound
Across the graves of all lands
Summons all before the throne.
Death and nature shall be stunned
When mankind arises
To render account before the judge.]

Baritone
Bugles sang, saddening the evening air;
And bugles answered, sorrowful to hear.
Voices of boys were by the river-side.
Sleep mothered them; and left the twilight sad.
The shadow of the morrow weighed on men.
Voices of old despondency resigned,
Bowed by the shadow of the morrow, slept.

Soprano
Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus judicetur.
Judex ergo cum sedebit
Quidquid latet, apparebut:
Nil inultum remanebit.

[Soprano
The written book shall be brought
In which all is contained
Whereby the world shall be judged.
When the judge takes his seat
All that is hidden shall appear:
Nothing will remain unavenged.]

Chorus
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronem rogaturus,
Cum vix justus sit securus?

[Chorus
What shall I, a wretch, say then?
To which protector shall I appeal
When even the just man is barely safe?]

Soprano et Chorus
Rex tremendae majestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.

[Soprano and Chorus
King of awful majesty,
Who freely savest those worthy of salvation,
Save me, fount of pity.]

Tenor and Baritone
Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death:
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland,-
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath,-
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorused when he sang aloft;
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.
Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against his powers.
We laughed, knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars; when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death - for Life; not men - for flags.

Chorus
Recordare Jesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuae viae:
Ne me perdas illa die.
Quarens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus:
Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce Deus.
Qui Mariam absolvisti,
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.
Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.
Confutatis maledictis,
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.
Oro supplex et acclinis
Cor contritum quasi cinis
Gere curam mei finis.

[Chorus
Remember, gentle Jesus,
That I am the reason for Thy time on earth,
Do not cast me out on that day.
Seeking me, Thou didst sink down wearily,
Thou hast saved me by enduring the cross,
Such travail must not be in vain.
I groan, like the sinner that I am,
Guilt reddens my face,
Oh God spare the supplicant.
Thou, who pardoned Mary
And heeded the thief,
Hast given me hope as well.
Give me a place among the sheep
And separate me from the goats,
Let me stand at Thy right hand.
When the damned are cast away
And consigned to the searing flames,
Call me to be with the blessed.
Bowed down in supplication I beg Thee,
My heart as though ground to ashes:
Help me in my last hour.]

Baritone
Be slowly lifted up, thou long black arm,
Great gun towering toward Heaven, about to curse;
Reach at that arrogance which needs thy harm,
And beat it down before its sins grow worse;
But when thy spell be cast complete and whole,
May God curse thee, and cut thee from our soul!

Chorus
Dies irae, dies illa,
Solvet saeclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando Judex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!

[Chorus
This day, this day of wrath
Shall consume the world in ashes,
As foretold by David and Sibyl.
What trembling there shall be
When the judge shall come
To weigh everything strictly.]

Soprano and Chorus
Lacrimosa dies illa,
Qua resurget ex favilla,
Judicandus homo reus:
Huic ergo parce Deus.

[Soprano and Chorus
Oh this day full of tears
When from the ashes arises
Guilty man, to be judges:
Oh Lord, have mercy upon him.]

Tenor
Move him into the sun -
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Soprano and Chorus
Lacrimosa dies illa...

[Soprano and Chorus
Oh this day full of tears...]

Tenor
Think how it wakes the seeds -
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-acheived, are sides,
Full-nerved - still warm - too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?

Soprano et Chorus
...Qua resurget ex favilla...

[Soprano and Chorus
...When from the ashes arises...]

Tenor
Was it for this the clay grew tall?

Soprano et Chorus
...Judicandus homo reus.

[Soprano and Chorus
...Guilty man, to be judged.]

Tenor
- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?

Chorus
Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem.
Amen.

[Chorus
Gentle Lord Jesus, grant them rest.
Amen.]

III. OFFERTORIUM

Pueri
Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriae,
libera animas omnium fidelium
defunctorum de poenis inferni,
et de profundo lacu:
libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas
tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum.

[Boys
Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of the faithful
departed from the pains of hell,
and the bottomless pit:
deliver them from the jaw of the lion, lest hell
engulf them, lest they be plunged into darkness.]

Chorus
Sed signifer sanctus Michael
repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam:
Quam olim Abrahae promisisti,
et semini ejus.

[Chorus
But let the holy standard-bearer Michael
lead them into the holy light
as Thou didst promise Abraham
and his seed.]

Tenor and Baritone
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenched there,
And streched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! and angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so,
but slew his son, -
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Pueri
Hostias et preces tibi Domine
laudis offerimus; tu suscipe pro
animabus illis, quarum hodie
memoriam facimus: fac eas, Domine,
de morte transire ad vitam.
Quam olim Abrahae promisisti
en semini ejus.

[Boys
Lord, in praise we offer to Thee
sacrifices and prayers, do Thou receive them
for the souls of those whom we remember
this day: Lord, make them pass
from death to life.
As Thou didst promise Abraham
and his seed.]

Chorus
...Quam olim Abrahae promisisti
et semini ejus.

[Chorus
...As Thou didst promise Abraham
and his seed.]

IV. SANCTUS

Soprano et Chorus
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus
Dominus Deus Saboath.
Pleni sunt ceoli et terra gloria tua,
Hosanna in excelsis.
Sanctus.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.
Sanctus.

[Soprano and Chorus
Holy,holy,holy
Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Holy.
Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
Holy.]

Baritone
After the blast of lighning from the East,
The flourish of loud clouds, the Chariot Throne;
After the drums of time have rolled and ceased,
And by the bronze west long retreat is blown,
Shall life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will He annul, all tears assuage? -
Fill the void veins of Life again with youth,
And wash, with an immortal water, Age?
When I do ask white Age he saith not so:
"My head hangs weighed with snow."
And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:
"My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.
Mine ancient scars shalls not be glorified,
Nor my titanic tears, the sea, be dried."

V. AGNUS DEI
Tenor
One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

Chorus
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.

[Chorus
Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
grant them rest.]

Tenor
Near Golgatha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied.

Chorus
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
dona eis requiem.

[Chorus
Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
grant them rest.]

Tenor
The scribes on all the people shove
and bawl allegiance to the state,

Chorus
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi...

[Chorus
Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world...]

Tenor
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

Chorus
...Dona eis requiem.

[Chorus
...Grant them rest.]

Tenor
Dona nobis pacem.

VI. LIBERA ME
Chorus
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna,
in die illa tremenda:
Quando coeli movendi sunt et terra:
Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.

[Chorus
Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death
in that awful day
when the heavens and earth shall be shaken
when Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.]

Soprano et Chorus
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo
dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna.
Quando coeli movendi sunt i terra.
Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis
et miseriae, dies magna et amara valde.
Libera me, Domine.

[Soprano and Chorus
I am seized with fear and trembling,
until the trial shall be at hand and the wrath to come.
Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death.
When the heavens and earth shall be shaken.
That day, that day of wrath, of calamity
and misery, a great day and exceeding bitter.
Deliver me, O Lord.]

Tenor
It seems that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
"Strange friend," I said, "here is no cause to mourn."

Baritone
"None", said the other, "save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil boldly, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress,
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Miss we the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even from wells we sunk too deep for war,
Even from the sweetest wells that ever were.
I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark; for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now..."

Pueri, item Chorus, item Soprano
In paridisum deducant te Angeli;
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam
Jerusalem. Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam
habeas requiem.

[Boys, then Chorus, then Soprano
Into Paradise may the Angels lead thee:
at thy coming may the Martyrs receive thee,
and bring thee into the holy city
Jerusalem. May the Choir of Angels receive thee
and with Lazarus, once poor,
may thou have eternal rest.]

Pueri
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.

[Boys
Lord, grant them eternal rest,
and let the perpetual light shine upon them.]

Chorus
In paradisum deducant etc.

[Chorus
Into Paradise, etc.]

Soprano
Chorus Angelorum, te suscipiat etc.

[Soprano]
May the Choir of Angels, etc.

Tenor and Baritone
Let us sleep now.

Chorus
Requiescant in pace. Amen.

[Chorus
Let them rest in peace. Amen.]

inviata da Riccardo Venturi - 4/1/2006 - 01:30


Ho trovato un sito che credo - verificate però - possa interessare e che non mi pare compaia tra i link segnalati sulla pagina di Cyrus Behroozi e Thomas Niday:
http://www.darn-tootin.com/031903.html
Contiene un'analisi del "War Requiem" di Britten, il testo integrale e alcuni estratti in formato mp3

Alessandro - 4/1/2006 - 14:58


Carissimo Alessandro, prima di tutto, e come di consueto, grazie per il tuo puntuale e preciso contributo. Come avrai già visto, ho inserito il testo integrale del War Requiem con una particolare disposizione; adesso inizierà l'opera di traduzione sia del latino che dell'inglese, la qual cosa non sarà per nulla semplice anche perché si ha a che fare, qui, con i testi poetici di Wilfred Owen, assai oscuri e complessi. Credo che in questo caso avrò bisogno di molti auguri! :-)

Riccardo Venturi - 4/1/2006 - 18:25

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