This weekend I’m in Exeter for the last of three weekends rehearsing Britten’s War Requiem, to be performed in Exeter Cathedral on Saturday, April 23rd. A fantastic work, and I anticipate an exciting concert. Strongly recommended to music lovers.
This is my third concert with the EMG symphony orchestra and chorus. The previous two, Mahler’s 8th symphony and Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony, have been amongst the most exciting in my life, due both to the music and to the group and inspirational director. She is alas leaving after this concert, having got a new job in Germany, so we just have to hope the group can find a worthy successor.
In the past I have found Britten to be much easier (to sing) than it sounds. That’s based on shorter to middling-scale works such as the Hymn to St Cecilia, Rejoice in the Lamb, and St Nicholas. The War Requiem is different: it is genuinely as challenging as it sounds to perform. It’s intensely rewarding: studying the work reveals much more than just listening to it of the (pacifist) composer’s horror of war. And it shows a work whose stupendous imagination could make it a lot more than any performance or recording I’ve heard, including the composer’s own.
 There’s a whole thesis to be written on what is easy or hard in music, vs what you’d think just by listening. For example, Bach is hard, and much of Beethoven is fiendish. On the other hand, Verdi’s spectacular requiem must be one of the easiest big works in the repertoire.