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 last week of November.

Rudi Stephan (Germany) – Music for Orchestra (1912)

Stephan’s “Music for Orchestra” marked him as one of the most promising composers of the early 1900s. His music pushed past post-romanticism into an early form of Expressionism. He was killed by a sniper at the Russian front in 1915. He had completed only about twenty works.

Benjamin Britten (UK) – Diversions for Piano Left Hand and Orchestra, Op. 21

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm while serving in the Germany army during World War I. Determined to carry on after the war, he commissioned left-handed piano works from composers across Europe. Wittgenstein commissioned this work from Britten in 1940. He premiered it in 1942 with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Like all of his commissions, Wittgenstein retained exclusive performance rights during his lifetime.

Arthur Benjamin (Australia) – Viola Sonata

Australian composer Arthur Benjamin was serving in the Royal Flying Corps when he was shot down in 1918. He had lost the dogfight to Herman Goering. Benjamin was sent to the Ruhleben internment camp, where several other professional musicians (mostly enemy civilians) were held. He wrote an unpublished violin sonata for performance at the camp.

Charles Ives – They are There! (1918)

Charles Ives wrote “They Are There!” to stir patriotism for the war effort. It’s pure Ives. The music mashes up several patriotic songs. According to the lyrics, “Most wars are made by small stupid selfish bossing groups, while the people have no say. But there’ll come a day when they’ll smash all dictators to the wall.”


John Foulds – A World Requiem, Op. 60

Fould’s World Requiem is a memorial to all the casualties of the Great War, regardless of nationality. It required over 1,200 performers. The Requiem premiered in 1921. Initially popular, A World Requiem was seldom performed after 1926, when attitudes towards the conflict changed. Foulds career faded along with the popularity of A World Requiem.