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Grace Notes: Composers In World War I


World War I really knocked the wind out of Europe’s musical community.  Commissions disappeared overnight. With so many men committed to the military, orchestras struggled to fill concert halls and their own ranks.  While popular music weathered the storm easily, the output of Europe’s composers slowed to a trickle. 

The grim reality of the war strangled the creative will. Art just doesn’t matter as much when the world is tearing itself apart at the seems. There were, however, a handful of composers—Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky—who found a way to create lasting works.

We’ll look at the war to end all wars through the lens of their wartime masterpieces. 

Scheherazade, Op. 35 Symphonic Suite: I. The Sea and Sinbads Ship The Seattle Symphony and Maria Larionoff Scheherezade/Tale of Tsar Saltan Suite. Naxos 572693 2011 :58
Fanfare for the Common Man San Francisco Symphony The Essence of America. RCA 63719 2000 :02
Overture to Die Fledermaus Berlin Philharmonic Herbert Von Karajan: the Legend. EMI Classics 15934 2008 :33
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 26: I allegro moderato Midori & the Berlin Philharmonic Mendelssohn and Bruch Violin Concertos. Sony Music Distribution 87740 2003 :42
The Rite of Spring: Summoning of the Ancestors New York Philharmonic Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps. Sony Classical 88765469152 2013 :27
A Shropshire Lad George Butterworth English String Orchestra. Nimbus 5068 1997 :32
Sonata for paino for four hands, Op. 24, The Milky Way: I Zofo Duet Zoforbit: A Space Odyssey. Sono Luminus 92178 2014 :34
Pictures at an Exhibition: Gnomus The Prague Symphony Orchestra Pictures at an Exhibition & Night On Bald Mountain. Stradivari 8007 1989 :38
Cvalda Björk Guðmundsdóttir Selmasongs: Music from the Motion Picture "Dancer In the Dark". Elektra 172976536 2000 :29
Doctor Atomic Symphony: Guide To Strange Places St. Louis Symphony Orchestra John Adams: Doctor Atomic Symphony. Nonesuch 7559799328 2009 :25
Syrinx for solo flute, L 129 Jadwiga Kotnowska Rise of the Masters: Supreme Classical Masterpieces. X5 Music Group 107 2011 :27
Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten Angele Debeau & La Pieta Arvo Part: Portrait. Analekta 2 8731 2010 :57
Zwei Stucke fur Klaviertrio: D'un soir triste Tanja Tetzloff Boulanger/Hindemith/Debussy. Cavi Music B00F03OZA8 2013 01:05
Atmospheres for Large Orchestra Vienna Philharmonic Gyorgy Ligeti: Atmospheres. Deutsche Grammophon 4790567 2012 :28
Metamorphosis No. 2 Jeroen van Veen Minimal Piano Collection. Brilliant Classics 8551 2007 :36
Hostvisa (Autum Song) Royal Strings Nordic Light. BIS 1181 2001 :31
The Red Poppy: Act III - Scene: The Conspiracy St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra Gliere: The Red Poppy (complete ballet). Naxos 8.553496-97 1995 :25
Finlandia, Op. 26 London Philharmonic Orchestra THE 50 GREATEST PIECES OF CLASSICAL MUSIC. X5 Music Group 105 2011 :21
Ballet Suite No. 2, Op. 84b: IV. Sentimental Romance Moscow Chamber Orchestra Shostakovich: Waltzes. Delos 3257 1999 :27
Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14: V. The Witches Sabbath Lyon National Orchestra Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique. Naxos 572886 2012 :53
Hostvisa (Autum Song) Royal Strings Nordic Light. BIS 1181 2001 :55
Tabula Rasa: II. Silentium Angele Debeau & La Pieta Arvo Part: Portrait. Analekta 2 8731 2010 :33
The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra) The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra John Adams: Harmonielehre · The Chairman Dances · Tromba Lontana · Short Ride In A Fast Machine. EMI Classics 55051 1994 02:07
The Lark Ascending Anne Akiko Meyers & the Philharmonia Orchestra Classical Ecstasy: Classics for a New Age. RCA 23041 1996 14:36
Mars, the Bringer of War Philharmonia Orchestra Holst: The Planets; Grainger: The Warriors. Deutsche Grammophon 445860 1995 08:03
Le Tombeau de Couperin Chicago Symphony Orchestra Mussorgsky-Ravel: Pictures From An Exhibition. London/Decca 400051 1982 16:04
Selections from the Suite from The Soldier's Tale Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Jeu de Cartes/Orpheus/Suite from "Histoire du Soldat". Chandos 10193 2004 04:00

 World War I

Cale Wiggins

Classical Content Coordinator and Host

Cale started his career as an on-air personality in 1997. He discovered his love of classical music through listening to NPR as a child and has been exploring the genre ever since.   Read Full Bio 

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