Decca Classics is proud to mark the 60th anniversary of Britten’s 1963 recording of his ‘War Requiem’ with a new high-definition transfer of this double GRAMMY Award-winning album.
“THIS TAPE WILL NOT PLAY WITHOUT OXIDE SHEDDING!!!” was the warning message, written in red capital letters, on the box cover of the first reel of the ‘War Requiem’ tape. To ensure a successful restoration, the four tape reels of the recording were baked to prevent further oxide shedding. Now, sixty years later Decca has made 24bit 192kHz transfers from the original stereo mastertapes at British Grove Studios. These offer unparalleled resolution and ensure that this definitive recording will resonate with new audiences for generations to come. The product suite includes an audiophile vinyl edition mastered at half-speed at Abbey Road Studios; Hybrid SACD; and a Dolby Atmos eAlbum release.
In addition to the remastered version, Decca is unveiling a special treat for music enthusiasts — the first-ever LP release of the rehearsal recording that was gifted by Decca to Britten on his 50th birthday in November 1963.
Three members of the original 1963 Decca recording crew, now in their 80s, have provided valuable insights for this restoration: Producer John Mordler, who joined Decca in late 1962, was assigned to oversee and edit the secret recordings of Benjamin Britten’s rehearsals for the ‘War Requiem’. Engineer Peter Van Biene, along with assistant engineer Michael Mailes worked with Mordler in a concealed control room, using two microphones to record Britten‘s voice and recalls: “I recorded the voice of Ben Britten with two mikes, one on the conductor’s stand and one in the control room, but I was out of sight, hidden in the mono recording room situated up the stairs at the side of the stage”.
Accompanying these audio releases is a lavishly illustrated and documented booklet with a treasure trove of insights, including excerpts from John Culshaw’s autobiography, ‘Putting the Record Straight’; reminiscences shared by Decca’s recording team, technical notes, detailed essays on the ‘War Requiem’ and the recording sessions, as well as rare, original session photographs and recently discovered curios including a facsimile of John Culshaw’s producer score plus a new introduction by Decca Classics Label Director Dominic Fyfe.
About Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem
Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’, op. 66, featuring the three soloists for whom it was originally composed: Galina Vishnevskaya (soprano), Peter Pears (tenor), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), The Bach Choir, London Symphony Chorus, Highgate School Choir, Melos Ensemble, and London Symphony Orchestra, is a musical masterpiece that combines the ‘Latin Requiem Mass’ with poignant verses by Wilfred Owen. It remains a powerful testament to the enduring impact of war on humanity.