Armistice commemorations: Q&A with Andrew Manze10:15, 7th November 2018
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) under principal guest conductor Andrew Manze is uniting forces from Hannover and Liverpool for two special performances of Britten’s War Requiem.
Both Liverpool and Hannover are UNESCO Cities of Music, and both were hugely affected by the war: over 90% of Hannover city centre was destroyed by bombing, and more than 12,000 soldiers from Liverpool signed up to fight the war at sea.
The first performance took place in Hannover last weekend (3 November); and the second is due to take place in Liverpool Cathedral this Saturday (10 November), the day before Armistice Day.
CM spoke to conductor Andrew Manze to find out more.
What is your approach to conducting Britten’s War Requiem in such a significant year?
The way Britten handles the text of the Requiem Mass and his thoughtful choice of poems by Wilfred Owen make any performance of his War Requiem a sobering experience. To hear it as we approach the Armistice centenary under the shadow of an uncertain Brexit adds another layer of poignancy. Britten wrote the piece as consolation, as a reminder of and protest against the human race’s propensity for futile acts of destruction. One should not compare Britain’s withdrawal from the EU with a world war but, whether pro- or anti-Brexit, the contrast between the music’s strong message of reconciliation and Brexit’s implicit rejection should give us all pause for thought.
Why have you chosen to combine forces with the NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover and Knabenchor Hannover?
I have been chief conductor in Hannover since 2014, and frequently visit the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, nowadays as its principal guest conductor. Hannover and Liverpool’s status as UNESCO Cities of Music is recognition of the fact that the love of making music and listening to music is an essential, rich part of their communal life, reaching all age-groups, from the youngest participants of Liverpool’s In Harmony project and Hannover’s Zwerg-Abo (roughly translated as Diddy-concerts) to the many amateurs and professionals involved in choirs and orchestras and the countless music lovers who come to listen. I have always thought that these two Philharmonic orchestras have a lot in common in the way they live and work. They share an unselfconscious commitment to good music-making and a generous attitude to one another and their audiences. I cannot wait to see the Liverpool and Hannover players sitting side by side, sharing music stands, finding a common voice (and pitch, I hope!) and the Hannover Boys Choir singing shoulder to shoulder with the Liverpool Cathedral choristers.
How can remembering our shared history with Europe help us as we contemplate musical cooperation after Brexit?
When it comes to Brexit, musicians can too easily appear as a whining, self-interested group. Rather than pontificate, I can only offer my perspective, having joined the European Community Youth Orchestra (as it was then) when I was seventeen and been active in most EU countries ever since, meeting audiences and musicians to whom I owe so much. Therefore I will never understand why a small majority of the British electorate which has grown up during Europe’s long recovery from two world wars and enjoyed its increasing prosperity and security, has turned against the EU which fostered those benefits. Musicians always seek to open channels of communication but Brexit will be a hard psychological breach to overcome, even for musicians, even putting aside practical questions of visas or the vital contribution of EU nationals to the British music scene and vice versa.
I will never understand why a small majority of the British electorate which has grown up during Europe’s long recovery from two world wars and enjoyed its increasing prosperity and security, has turned against the EU
Is there anything you hope audiences will take from this performance?
The power of Britten’s music and Owen’s words, and this rare opportunity to bring such wonderful musicians together, make the whole project hugely important for all of us. It will be a memory we cherish for the rest of our lives. I hope that our listeners will share in this feeling.
300 musicians from the combined forces of the RLPO and Choir, choristers of Liverpool Cathedral, NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Knabenchor Hannover, and a team of world-class soloists have been brought together for the performances.
For more information visit https://www.liverpoolphil.com/whats-on/britten-war-requiem