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 third week of November.

Edward Elgar (UK) – The Fringes of the Fleet

Elgar set Rudyard Kipling’s poems in 1917. They were performed throughout the UK to boost patriotism. The tenor who premiered the work, Charles Mott, was killed in action in 1918. After the war, attitudes changed, and the song cycle was seldom performed.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Austria-Hungary) – Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in C-sharp major, Op. 17

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm in World War I. Determined to carry on after Armistice, he commissioned left-handed piano works from composers across Europe. Wittgenstein was so pleased with Korngold’s 1924 concerto, that he also commissioned a chamber work from him.

Ernest MacMillan (Canada) – String Quartet in C minor

Canadian conductor/composer MacMillan was attending a Wagner festival at Bayreuth festival when hostilities broke out. He was sent to Ruhleben internment camp, along with Edgar Bainton. His string quartet was written his fellow prisoners, who put on a series of chamber music concerts.

Alban Berg – Wozzeck

Berg began composing “Wozzeck” in 1914 and continued working on it while serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army. The grim story of the hapless private Wozzeck resonated with post-war audiences. “Wozzeck” was frequently performed in Germany until 1933, when it was banned by the Nazis as degenerate.

Ivor Gurney (UK) – War Elegy

Gurney wrote poems and composed music while serving with the Gloucester Regiment. He was wounded in 1917 and gassed in 1918. His promising postwar career was soon derailed by mental illness. He was institutionalized in 1922 and remained so for the remaining 15 years of his life. He completed his War Elegy just two years before his breakdown.