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Ludwig Van
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Ian Bostridge's Great War Themed Album Wrenches The Heart

By Norman Lebrecht on November 9, 2018

Themed albums are all the rage these days, but coming up with an idea that takes into to account timeliness is a rarity. Ian Bostridge and Antonio Pappano’s “Requiem, the pity of war” captures the timelessness of the English landscape and the hopelessness of young men in the WWI trenches with this magical new release.

Requiem, the pity of war (Warner)

★★★★ (out of five)

Another themed album, but for once a timely theme. Ian Bostridge has chosen sets by two composers who fell in the First World War and two who knew the terror of war without having experienced it. George Butterworth’s setting of A. E. Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad captures at once the timelessness of English landscape and the hopelessness of young men in the trenches. Bostridge wrenches the heart with his falsetto lines in ‘Is my team ploughing?’, the appeal of a fallen soldier. Butterworth fell on the Somme to a sniper’s bullet in August 1916.

Rudi Stephan was 28 when he was shot by a Russian near Tarnopol on the eastern front. A daring composer, he drifts close to atonality and deep into the erotic zone in Ich will dir singen nein Hohelied (I’d like to sing you a high song). Kurt Weill’s settings of Walt Whitman’s US Civil War songs are little known. There’s something of Charles Ives in Weill’s approach, a digression from his burgeoning Broadway career. Four early songs by Gustav Mahler round off the recital. Antonio Pappano is a sensitive pianist, perhaps a tad too dramatic when Bostridge is at his most restrained, but the pair are never less than thought-provoking and, sometimes, transcendent.

Requiem, the pity of war (Warner) is available at AmazonSpotify, and iTunes.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

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