The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical Music: Today is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Here is music by Bach and Gorecki to commemorate the terrorist attacks and remind us of the deadly consequences of religious intolerance and extremism, whether Islamic or Christian. What music do you think is best to mark 9/11?

September 11, 2011

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. – and of the one foiled by the ill-fated Flight 93.

What should you listen to?

The choices are vast. There will be a lot of music. Locally, regionally and nationally. Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” and Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2” (“Resurrection) are sure bets, as are requiems by Mozart, Brahms and Faure.

You can check this posting from earlier this week as an overview of local events:’s-10th-anniversary-of-sept-11-commemorations-in-the-madison-area-include-various-local-and-state-groups-including-the-madison-symphony-orchestra-and-the-new/

Also relevant are columns by Washington Post critic Anne Midgette about the role of 9/11 and commemorative music in general as well as how 9/11 has inspiring a lot of new music:

NPR has also conducted several interviews with composers, including Ned Rorem and Steve Reich, about composing music in the wake of 9/11. Here is a link:

And here are the two choices I have to offer.

The first is “Erbarme dich” or “Have Mercy on Me” from J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion.”

I like it and find it appropriate because the legacy of death among survivors and a plea for comfort from the pain of loss is an ancient story never better expressed than by this early music:

The second is an excerpt from Symphony No. 3 (“The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”) by the late modern Polish composer Henryk Gorecki. Dawn Upshaw and David Zinman’s recording of it proved a surprise bestseller.

I particularly like this work on this occasion because it uses texts from the inmates at Auschwitz death camp, where this version was also recorded. And so many of those who question the events of 9/11 or who committed them or the motives of the terrorists  — especially those who question them in Islamic and Arab countries , also are Holocaust deniers. That’s something that should not be forgotten when weighing their credibility and compassion.

In a sense, the Nazi’s war of genocide against the Jews can be seen an extension of a holy war waged over centuries by Christians against Jews. All in all, this work is a fine reminder – like the events of 9/11 and their aftermath – of the deadly results of religious intolerance and extremist beliefs, including fundamentalism of all stripes, whether it is Islam or Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism.

What do you think of these choices?

What music do you think best commemorates the events of 9/11?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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