Fifty years to the day after its premiere, Andris Nelsons celebrated with his orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (which also gave that first performance), Benjamin Britten's War Requiem through a special anniversary performance given at Coventry Cathedral, the site of its first performance, starring Erin Wall, Mark Padmore and Hanno Müller-Brachmann.
Coventry Cathedral was nearly completely destroyed by the German Luftwaffe at the beginning of World War II. After the war, next to the ruins of the old destroyed church, a new cathedral was built and the then already famous British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) was commissioned to compose a work for the consecration of the church. Britten set the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead interwoven with nine poems by the English poet Wilfred Owen, who himself had been killed in World War I. For the premiere in 1962 Benjamin Britten decided that English, German and Russian soloists should perform. His devastating meditation on the pity of war has since then not only become one of the defining masterpieces of the twentieth century classical music but also one of the most famous worldwide appeals for peace.
For this special anniversary performance “tenor Mark Padmore and baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann, English and German soloists as at the premiere, brought Wilfred Owen's wartime poems vividly to life” (Financial Times) and Grammy awarded soprano Erin Wall “was in striking form, her clarion soprano leaping huge intervals as the spokeswoman for suffering humanity” (Birmingham Post).