Agnieszka Franków-Żelazny graduated from the University of Wrocław in 2000 with a degree in biology. That year, she founded the Kameralny Chór Akademii Medycznej (Medici Cantantes Choir at the Medical University of Wrocław). In 2004, she received a diploma from the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, where she studied Music Education and was awarded a diploma in 2005 from the Vocal Department. During this time, she was honoured with the first prize in the National Contest for Choir Conductors. In 2006, she completed the Postgraduate Voice Production and Training Programme at the Academy of Music in Bydgoszcz. Since June 2006, Franków-Żelazny has been the artistic director of the National Forum of Music Choir. In 2008, she was awarded a special prize for conductors from the 39th Legnica Cantat National Choir Contest. Franków-Żelazny became the head of Polish National Youth Choir, which she also founded, in 2013. She completed coursework at the Academy of Culture Leaders at the Economic University of Kraków, in 2014 and was distinguished with the Gloria Artis Bronze Medal for Merit to Culture. The following January, she was named the programme director of the Choral Academy of the National Forum of Music. In 2016, Franków-Żelazny was a music curator for the year that Wrocław served as the European Capital of Culture. The album DE PROFUNDIS – Polish Psalms of the 20th and 21st Century with the NMF Choir under her direction was awarded the Fryderyk prize for the best choral, oratorio and orchestra music, 2017. She currently works as an Associate Professor at the Academy of Music in Wrocław.
Benjamin Britten was commissioned to write a piece in celebration of the opening of the new cathedral at Coventry. He began work in early 1961 and completed it in January 1962. The resulting, War Requiem was a profound statement of the composer’s pacifist convictions and humanitarian beliefs that expressed both the public and the private nature of loss, and in the end, of reconciliation. From an early age, Britten, who was raised between the First and Second World Wars, was deeply aware of the futility and sheer human cost of warfare. He was quoted by Graham Elliott having said “I can find . . . nothing wrong with offering to my fellow-men music which may inspire them, which may touch them or entertain them, even educate them — directly and with intention. On the contrary, it is the composer’s duty, as a member of society, to speak to or for his fellow beings.”
The War Requiem was instantly regarded as a towering choral masterpiece of the 20th century and has become a staple of the choral repertoire. In it, Britten intersperses his setting of the Latin Missa pro Defunctis (Mass for the Dead) with an intimate song cycle drawn from nine poems of the First World War poet Wilfred Owen. Most of the Latin texts are sung by a large chorus which represents the whole Church. A soprano soloist leads them, adding a personal tone to the grief of the Christian community. Children's voices, accompanied only by a small organ, sing prayers of heavenly praise, representing those untouched by earthly griefs, guilt or fear. Two male soloists, accompanied by a chamber orchestra, sing the English poems, portraying common soldiers who face death every day. Their words imply serious challenges to the ancient consolations of the Church. The work is presented in six movements.
The War Requiem was first performed at the consecration festival in Coventry Cathedral on May 30th, 1962 during the height of the cold war. Britten had composed the three solo parts for English tenor Peter Pears, German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, however, Soprano Heather Harper had to be called in at the last minute as Vishnevskaya was refused permission to leave the Soviet Union.
My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The poetry is in the pity.
All a poet can do today is warn.
- - Wilfred Owen
Alixandra Porembski, English Language Annotator