Magazine article Musical Times

Letters

Magazine article Musical Times

Letters

Article excerpt

Dispassionate distancing?

James Brooks Kuykendall's ?Britten, Bach and the Passion' (MT Winter 2015) spins a resourceful documentary web, but its broader conclusions remain open to doubt. War requiem owes its early 1960s kind of memorability to the divisions it explores between Owen's war poems and the Latin liturgy; the Verdian echoes Britten admits to his setting of that liturgy reinforce the cultural gulf between the two forms of expression, and the tentative moves towards convergence between sacred and secular in the work's later stages underscore the composer's uneasiness at the apparent logic of making such an attempt. In addition, Britten the non-Jungian pacifist was probably anxious to avoid any risk of comparison with the Passion-like aspects of Tippett's 20-yearold A child of our time-, so although he was able to find ways of acknowledging Bach's formidable precedents on a relatively small scale - the Cantata misericordium, the Cello Suites - the claim that he might seek to bring such acknowledgement to bear on War requiem seems too good to be true. …

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