Free «Benjamin Britten`s War Requiem Analysis» Essay Sample
Benjamin Britten`s War Requiem is the music of all times, which was written as a protest against wars. It is wide-known that wars are the greatest scourge of humanity. They bring sufferings, pain, and disasters. Wars take away a lot of innocent human lives. Mostly, these are lives of young people. The most impressive thing about wars is that they mostly have no sense for a concrete person. Ordinary people play here just a role of the instrument for achieving goals of others. Benjamin Britten`s War Requiem tells about these things honestly and openly. When listening to this music, a person feels sadness of the war on the whole.
Benjamin Britten wrote War Requiem in 1962. In this piece, he used poetry by Wilfred Owen, who was killed in the last days of World War I. The poetry in War Requiem is combined with texts from Latin Mass for the Dead. The piece is vocal symphonic. It is written for three soloists (tenor, baritone, and soprano), chorus, boys` choir, organ, orchestras, and chamber orchestra (Boosey & Hawkes). The author divided his work into six movements: Requiem Aeternam, Dies Irae, Offertorium, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Libera Me. For doing the analysis, there were selected the first and the second movements of the piece, to be exact, Requiem Aeternam and Dies Irae.
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Britten`s music works to support the meaning of the text. It can be seen through the whole piece. In the Requiem Aeternam, the movement of ringing bells at 1:07”, 1:27”, 2:02” (Britten, 1962) tells about funeral procession. The text supports the moment. Boys` choir interrupts the procession with Latin words from the Mass for the Dead. The choir is singing “Lord, grant them eternal rest” (Text of the War Requiem). It sounds calm and detachedly. Then, the ceremony is continuing, and the same music as earlier is playing. With time, at 2:30” until 3:00” (Britten, 1962) the melody becomes stronger. It supports the mankind`s call for a help. It sounds stronger with a hope to be heard by Lord. Later in this movement, tenor interrupts it with Owen`s Anthem for Doomed Youth. This monolog is full of tragedy. The tenor soloist is singing about vital questions of war losses. At the beginning of his party, at 6:47” (Britten, 1962) the music becomes stronger and faster. It supports the awful question, “What passing bells for these who die as cattle?” (Text of the War Requiem). It tells about the meaning of people in the war. They mean nothing and go to the war as cattle for dying. People cannot die in such a way. At 7:57” (Britten, 1962) the music becomes slower and full of pity. The tenor soloist is singing about the last breath of young boys.
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The Dies Irae movement begins at 10:51” (Britten, 1962) with trumpets. The sound is deep, strong and martial. It gives a special meaning to the moment. It seems like a march and some signal to attack. It sounds like a call for a battle for justice. The percussive instruments support the theme and make it stronger. “This day, this day of wrath shall consume a world in ashes” (Text of the War Requiem) – the chorus sings. Trumpets call to one another, amplify with each one and paint a picture of a future battle. The music becomes stronger and faster. It supports the text about God`s wrath, “What trembling there shall be when the judge shall come” (Text of the War Requiem). At 15:00” (Britten, 1962) the baritone soloist begins to sing about sadness and sorrow, when boys are sleeping before the battle. Their rest is short and anxious. The music supports the text by its slow tempo and soft sound. Everything is telling about hopelessness. Flutes and violins give the full picture of the moment. Their play is calm and slow. During the piece, there are moments when music is gradually getting louder. When it reaches its high point, it goes down again. At 17:30” (Britten, 1962) the soprano soloist takes his party and sings loud and strong about justice of Heaven. The music sounds solemnly and grandly as if the court process is there. Sounds are loud, and tempo is fast. When tenor and baritone soloists begin to sing together at 20:32” (Britten, 1962), the music gets loud and fast. Men are singing about the life and death of soldiers. They are brave and pay no attention to the death. They have no fear. Trumpets and percussive instruments paint the battle scenes. Soldiers’ bravery and readiness to die are at the moment. Then, the chorus is praying to the accompaniment of quiet and slow music. The music is getting louder and then quiet again. People of the chorus are interchanging and supplementing each other. Then, the baritone soloist is singing hard and strong, and the music is getting louder. When soprano soloist is singing Lacrimosa, the pain and suffering are there. Quiet music is playing. Tenor supports the mood, and light music reminds flight and silence. At the end of the movement, the only question is in the air – “Why?”