Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Technical Aspects in Britten's War Requiem

I've been doing a lot of work on Britten's War Requiem for an upcoming audition and I had a question regarding the Dies Irae section. I find that the 7/4 tempo is too fast to subdivide,but if you do it as one larger pattern, it has a tendancy to get out of control.  I'm wondering what the best way to navigate this section would be; is it sufficient to give clear ictuses for each large beat (if we divide it as 2+2+3) or is it necessary to conduct it in an elongated 3-pattern? I'm curious, particularly from the singer's perspective, which is easier to understand and respond to. 
 
Thanks for your help!
 
Matthew Abernathy
on February 19, 2013 5:00am
Dear Mr. Abernathy:
 
I have both sung and prepared the War Requiem many times-- from both a singer's point of view and a conductor's/instrumentalist's point of view, the "Dies irae" should be conducted in seven.
 
The trick to making it work is to keep the pattern tightly focused, i.e., centered in front of the body--and strongly articulated, using a lot of wrist/finger control to make the tip of the baton snap out the beat.
 
Fritz Reiner famously kept his fortes no larger than about 8-10" across--that kind of focus is considerably more powerful than wide, excessive gesturing can ever be--the same type of focus will imbue your "Dies irae" with the kind of tautness and intensity it requires.
 
Best wishes for your audition using a movement from what is surely the greatest choral/ orchestral work of the 20th century.
 
Cordially,
Thomas Sheets, D.M.A.
on February 19, 2013 9:01am
As I recall from conducting this a few years ago, I used a hybrid solution, usually conducting the first two beats without subdivision but employing a small, crisp 3-pattern on the final beat. Occasionally, when the heavy accented syncopated beats require it, you could employ a kind of 'stop-beat' subdivision (stop the rebound on the main beat, activate on the subdivided beat, also keeping it very crisp and focused).
 
Len Ratzlaff
University of Alberta
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.