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Britten: War Requiem, Sanctus

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: A composer lashes out at the terrors of war…

In 1940, the German air force bombed the English city of Coventry, destroying its centuries-old cathedral among other important landmarks. A new cathedral was later built from the ruins of the old building as a testament to England’s desire to rebuild from the destruction of World War II. Benjamin Britten was commissioned to write a work for the commemoration of the new cathedral, and he took this as an opportunity to write one of the greatest anti-war statements of the century, the War Requiem. The structure of this monumental piece is based heavily on the Requiem of Giuseppe Verdi. Britten not only set the traditional Requiem text to music but also the poetry of Wilfred Owen, a soldier and poet who died in World War I. Britten’s pairing of the Requiem text and Owen’s poetry is an extremely moving combination.

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