November 19, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. The #ClassicaDay team asked participants to post classical works related to the conflict.
For my part, I tried to find examples from both sides of the war, and from as many different countries as possible. Here are my posts from the first full week of November.
George Butterworth (UK) – Banks of Green Willow
Butterworth was just starting his career when WW1 broke out. He was killed at the Battle of the Somme, 8/25/16. His body was never recovered. His tone poem, “Banks of the Green Willow” became an anthem for the War’s Unkown Soldiers.
Arnold Schoenberg (Austria-Hungary) – Die eiserne Brigade, March for string quartet and piano (1916)
Schoenberg was conscripted at age 42. An officer demanded to know if he was “this notorious Schoenberg, then.” He replied, “Nobody wanted to be, someone had to be, so I volunteered.” He composed this march for his regiment, but it was rejected as too dissonant.
Sergei Bortkiewicz (Russia) – Piano Concerto No.2 (for the Left Hand), op.28
Pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm fighting in the German army during World War I. Determined to carry on after the war, he commissioned left-handed piano works from several European composers. Wittgenstein premiered Bortkiewicz’s concerto in 1923, and he performed it quite frequently in the 1920s and 1930s.
Frank Bridge (UK) – Lament (for Catherine, aged 9 “Lusitania” 1915)
The sinking of the “Lusitania” by a German U-boat shocked the world because of the large number of civilian casualties. 1,198 died, including several children. One of them was a family friend of Bridge, who wrote this Lament to exorcize his grief.
Albéric Magnard (France) – Symphony No. 4 in C sharp minor, Op. 23
When war broke out in 1914, Magnard sent his family to safety. He remained behind to defend his home. When German soldiers arrived, he shot at them. They returned fire and set his house ablaze. Magnard and all of his unpublished scores were destroyed in the fire.
Frederick Septimus Kelly (Australia) – Elegy for Strings “In Memoriam Rupert Brooke”
Australian Frederick Kelly was a champion rower — he won gold at the 1908 Olympics. He was also a talented composer. Serving in the Navy, he was wounded twice at Gallipoli. His elegy was written for a fallen comrade. Kelly died in 1916, rushing a machine gun nest at the Battle of the Somme.