For Veterans Day, an excerpt from Britten's profound 'War Requiem'
On this Veterans Day, I wanted to share something from Benjamin Britten's profound "War Requiem." The composer interwove the ancient Latin Mass for the Dead with haunting poetry of Wilfred Owen to create a musical memorial to all those killed in all wars. The most affecting passage in the long, emotionally draining work comes at the end, when the tenor and baritone soloists sing a particularly powerful poem that imagines two soldiers from opposite sides of the conflict meeting after death:
"I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now . . . ."
Here is the finale, starting with that last line, in a moving performance conducted by
the late Mstislav Rostropovich in 2004, three years before his own death: