The two SACDs are presented as if they were LPs (and vinyl is newly available, too) with the accompanying documentation being memorabilia-generous. The place to start is the fifty-minute rehearsal sequence (which has been previously available), business-like if instructive, composer as a conductor who knows what he wants and is clear as to what is required, and why. The recording itself, for many years the only choice for home listening, as for me, in the late-1970s, when I first heard War Requiem, on cassettes (at this time LPs were quite often frustrating impersonators of a particular breakfast cereal’s signature), and the experience was remarkable and overwhelming. (As it also was around this time with Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius – from Sir Adrian Boult’s EMI version, also tape.) War Requiem, as on this Decca recording, remains powerful and poignant, and, frankly, this new transfer is a must-have for its clarity, presence, impact, perspectives (soprano, choir and orchestra/Requiem Mass texts; male singers and chamber ensemble/Wilfred Owen’s WWI poetry; ethereal boys’ voices), and an unstinting dynamic range – a handsome tribute to producer John Culshaw, engineer Kenneth Wilkinson and the superb acoustics of Kingsway Hall (now a hotel, I believe). I have just (re)discovered War Requiem anew on Decca 485 3765 (2 SACDs). Expense aside, new listeners should start there or with the re-cut vinyl of course; either way, War Requiem remains a musical force to be reckoned with, so relevant to our continuing troubled times.

Galina Vishnevskaya (soprano)
Peter Pears (tenor)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
The Bach Choir
London Symphony Chorus

Highgate School Choir

Simon Preston (organ)
The Melos Ensemble Of London
London Symphony Orchestra