Author Topic: Composers killed in the First World War.  (Read 3553 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Composers killed in the First World War.
« on: August 02, 2018, 02:21:28 AM »
I was prompted to start this thread having listened to a disc of orchestral music by Ernest Farrar (1885-1918) and contemplating what a tragic loss to music his death was. There is a lovely Chandos CD of his music, sadly deleted, and only available at an absurd price on Amazon UK (cheaper on Amazon.Com). However, a download is available more sensibly priced. He was the teacher of Finzi who hero-worshipped him and was completely distraught when Farrar was killed. The 'Heroic Elegy' (May 1918) was his final orchestral work - Farrar returned to Harrogate on leave from the Amy to conduct the first performance on 3rd July 1918; a few weeks later he was killed leading his men in the Battle of Epehy Ronssoy and is buried in a war cemetery there. Retrospectively some of his music has an added poignancy which is heart-breaking. In particular the 'Heroic Elegy' with its sad processional tone, utilising the old 'Song of Agincourt'. As the booklet writer says it would be a very appropriate work to play before a performance of 'A Pastoral Symphony' by Vaughan Williams. The writer aptly says that 'The Elegy opens with an introduction haunted by the atmosphere of bleak dust on the battlefield and is followed by a noble funeral march. Going on to the earlier 'English Pastoral Impressions' - the central movement 'Bredon Hill' I found even more moving that the movement in 'On Wenlock Edge' by Vaughan Williams of the same title, great as that work is. The Farrar work, I don't mind saying, had me in tears. There is a poignant photo of him, in military uniform, in the booklet.

Rather than just me rambling on about Farrar I thought I'd extend the scope to include other composers killed in World War One (Ivor Gurney died some years later in an asylum but probably as a result of the horrors he experienced in the trenches). Others like George Butterworth and Alberic Magnard (who died in rather different circumstances) come to mind as well:



Heroic Elegy (1918):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywxOZrz46JU
Grave of Ernest Farrar:
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9679560#view-photo=30829039
« Last Edit: August 02, 2018, 03:15:14 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Cato

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8938
  • An American Hero!
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2018, 02:41:47 AM »
Many thanks for this topic!  Here is an article with a short list of such unfortunate young composers: one of the links seems to have been canceled.

http://www.michaeldrislane.com/2014/08/25/composers-who-died-in-wwi/
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

violinconcerto

  • Guest
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2018, 02:54:42 AM »
I recently published the score for a work by Aladar Rado (1882-1914) who died on battle field near Belgrade on the very first days of World War I. If someone is interested in his "Spring song for violin and piano" one can find the score here: www.tobias-broeker.de

Offline Cato

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8938
  • An American Hero!
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2018, 03:11:27 AM »
Many thanks for this topic!  Here is an article with a short list of such unfortunate young composers: one of the links seems to have been canceled.

http://www.michaeldrislane.com/2014/08/25/composers-who-died-in-wwi/

Here is a replacement for the canceled link, which featured W.D. Browne's To Gratiana Dancing and Singing:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/UjR91VzRxkQ" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/UjR91VzRxkQ</a>
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2018, 03:29:41 AM »
Here is a replacement for the canceled link, which featured W.D. Browne's To Gratiana Dancing and Singing:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/UjR91VzRxkQ" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/UjR91VzRxkQ</a>

Cheers Leo and thanks for reminding us of that absolutely beautiful song by W Denis Browne, which I remember enthusing about when I first discovered it. Ursula Vaughan Williams thought it superior of any other British song of its time, including those written by her husband and I think she was right. As far as I'm concerned it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

Of course in November we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One - so maybe a good time to revive interest in these composers whose lives were tragically cut short in that conflict.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Biffo

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1858
  • Location: United Kingdom
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2018, 03:36:08 AM »
Hyperion issued a disc of the music of Cecil Coles back in 2002. There doesn't seem to be any follow up, possibly the disc contains all that he wrote. Another sad loss. I have the Farrar disc and will have to revisit it.

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2018, 03:43:42 AM »
Hyperion issued a disc of the music of Cecil Coles back in 2002. There doesn't seem to be any follow up, possibly the disc contains all that he wrote. Another sad loss. I have the Farrar disc and will have to revisit it.

Totally agree with you - that is a fine disc and I recall that it generated much interest when it was released.



Another fine Hyperion cover image.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2018, 03:45:44 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2018, 03:47:26 AM »
I recently published the score for a work by Aladar Rado (1882-1914) who died on battle field near Belgrade on the very first days of World War I. If someone is interested in his "Spring song for violin and piano" one can find the score here: www.tobias-broeker.de

Very interesting, thanks for alerting us to him - I had never heard of Rado.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline calyptorhynchus

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 824
  • Location: Canberra, Australia
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2018, 12:10:46 PM »
I don't want to underestimate the suffering of someone caught up in WW1, but I do believe that the consensus is now the Gurney's mental health was not primarily due to WW!, but that it was an underlying condition that had manifested before the war, probably bipolar.

Offline André

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8613
  • Location: Laval, QC
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2018, 04:26:03 PM »
Louis Vierne didn’t die in WWI, but his son did, aged 17. Vierne had written an exemption to allow him to go to War. The guilt-ridden composer grieved endlessly. Catharsis came in the form of his Piano Quintet, which he dedicated to his son’s memory. It’s one of the most moving and powerful chamber music works I know.

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2018, 09:19:57 PM »
I don't want to underestimate the suffering of someone caught up in WW1, but I do believe that the consensus is now the Gurney's mental health was not primarily due to WW!, but that it was an underlying condition that had manifested before the war, probably bipolar.

Yes, I heard that view as well. Thanks - difficult to be sure I guess.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2018, 09:21:38 PM »
Louis Vierne didn’t die in WWI, but his son did, aged 17. Vierne had written an exemption to allow him to go to War. The guilt-ridden composer grieved endlessly. Catharsis came in the form of his Piano Quintet, which he dedicated to his son’s memory. It’s one of the most moving and powerful chamber music works I know.

Didn't know that - thanks Andre. I will look out for Vierne's Piano Quintet.
Just found this one inexpensively. One review compared it to Cesar Franck's chamber music which I like.



Bliss's 'Morning Heroes' comes to mind here because although the composer survived the horrors of the Western Front his brother Kennard did not and Morning Heroes, possibly Bliss's masterpiece was written, about 1930, to extirpate recurring nightmares about the war and his much-loved brother's death.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2018, 09:37:01 PM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #12 on: August 02, 2018, 09:43:59 PM »
A strong recommendation from me - this is a lovely CD devoted to music by composers whose lives were effected by World War One. The performance of the Butterworth is the best I have heard, oddly reminiscent of Sibelius at one point. The Finzi is a great discovery (as mentioned above he was despondent over the death of his teacher Ernest Farrar in the War).



Finzi's moving 'Requiem da Camera' is dedicated in memory to his teacher Ernest Farrar.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 02:28:30 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Draško

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 718

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2018, 02:22:23 AM »
Phenomenal talent. Huge loss.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudi_Stephan

Music for Orchestra (1910)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PyOBgnTSeY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WpYyBAo8_U

Music for Orchestra (1912)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtQiz5Li89I

Music for seven stringed instruments (1911)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okhadcK1T3k
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XIwX5ZlmMg
I agree with you and I'd never heard of him. Music for Orchestra (1912) almost seems like a premonition of things to come. He already interests me more than Richard Strauss. He was sadly killed on the Eastern Front in 1915. Thank you for posting this. I will be exploring his music (just ordered the CD you posted). His music reminds me a little of that of Zemlinsky.

Here is 'English Pastoral Impressions' by Ernest Farrar (1915).
The central movement 'Bredon Hill' which begins five minutes into the work is the one that I found very moving, especially in view of what was ahead for him.

https://youtu.be/5Jf3LYjkh0Q
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 02:43:36 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2018, 02:35:28 AM »
I don't want to underestimate the suffering of someone caught up in WW1, but I do believe that the consensus is now the Gurney's mental health was not primarily due to WW!, but that it was an underlying condition that had manifested before the war, probably bipolar.

I've linked a review I wrote for the 'Flowers of the Field' CD which includes music by Gurney. If you look at the comments section you'll see that there was a posting about Gurney's mental condition, which first alerted me to the interesting point that you made:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/customer-reviews/R6N9W322B7FKK/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00NQ9HVM2
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Cato

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8938
  • An American Hero!
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2018, 02:45:40 AM »

Didn't know that - thanks Andre. I will look out for Vierne's Piano Quintet.
Just found this one inexpensively. One review compared it to Cesar Franck's chamber music which I like.




Andre' is quite right!  Here is a YouTube performance with the score:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/T9rCTrkIKnM" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/T9rCTrkIKnM</a>

What about Lili Boulanger ?  She died during WW I, from a disease, but did have a connection to the war.  This work would seem to have been influenced by the wartime atmosphere:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/1OERJAjoHRY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/1OERJAjoHRY</a>
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16838
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2018, 03:32:54 AM »
Andre' is quite right!  Here is a YouTube performance with the score:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/T9rCTrkIKnM" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/T9rCTrkIKnM</a>

What about Lili Boulanger ?  She died during WW I, from a disease, but did have a connection to the war.  This work would seem to have been influenced by the wartime atmosphere:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/1OERJAjoHRY" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/1OERJAjoHRY</a>

Thanks Leo - the Vierne does indeed sound very fine as Andre said and I've liked everything I've ever heard by Lili Boulanger. 'D'un soir triste'' sounds especially darkly beautiful.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 03:42:26 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Roasted Swan

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 831
  • Location: UK
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2018, 04:33:25 AM »
I would generally recommend the very extensive series of discs from Hortus collectively titled "Les Musiciens et la grande guerre".  Beautifully presented, interestingly programmed and in the main performed with real sensitivity - often using period pianos to good effect.  Volume XVIII - Ombres et Lumières - includes some Rudi Stephan and the magnificent Vierne Piano Quintet mentioned earlier.


« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 04:38:30 AM by Roasted Swan »

Offline Cato

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 8938
  • An American Hero!
Re: Composers killed in the First World War.
« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2018, 04:37:27 AM »
I would generally recommend the very extensive series of discs from Hortus collectively titled "Les Musiciens et la grande guerre".  Beautifully presented, interestingly programmed and in the main performed with real sensitivity - often using period pianos to good effect.  Volume XVIII - Ombres et Lumières - includes some Rudi Stephan and the magnificent Vierne Piano Quintet mentioned earlier.


The link does not work, but here is an image:

"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)