The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: For Memorial Day – and as a tribute to all veterans — here is the long and moving history of “Taps” from NPR. | May 28, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

In past years, I have posted works of classical music that pay tribute to veterans, their families and those whose suffering we recall and remember on Memorial Day. (Below is a photo of Arlington National Cemetery.)

Here is a link to the Memorial Day posting for 2011:

Here are links to two Memorial Day postings for 2010:

In addition, the National Memorial Day Concert – with hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise — that was broadcast LIVE last night (Sunday) from the west lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wisconsin Public Television will get an encore presentation tonight at 10:30 p.m. The National Symphony Orchestra will take part. It performs Samuel Barber‘s “Adagio for Strings,” among other works.

Here are links to information about that TV broadcast:

But this year I happened upon something else: An extraordinary history on NPR of the moving, emotionally intense bugle call TAPS that will be played many times in many places today.

It is both a personal story of a longtime military bugler for Arlington National Cemetery and a history of a piece of music that spans 150 years, and wears and conflicts going back to the Civil War and more recently the assassination of JFK.

Here is a link to the story:

But I am also not ignoring classical music. If I recall correctly, Leonard Bernstein once commented on how Beethoven used various bugle calls in his Symphony No. 3, the famed “Eroica” that also has a movement that is a “Funeral March for a Hero.” (Part of the technical explanation, I seem to recall, is that the symphony is written in the key of E-flat, which is often the key for brass and especially horns and trumpets.)  

But I am still interested in what piece of classical music you would choose to listen to on Memorial Day as a tribute to veterans. Leave a comment and let us know.


  1. Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony or 8th String Quartet.

    Comment by Susan Fiore — May 28, 2012 @ 8:49 am

    • Hi Susan,
      These are excellent, outstanding suggestions.
      The 10th Symphony is the famous “Leningrad” Symphony celebrating the brutal and savage siege of Leningrad during World War II by the Nazis. It was so popular at the time of its composition that the score was smuggled out to the West where it was performed as soon as it was composed.
      And the String Quartet No. 8 memorializes “victims of Fascism,” which the Soviets at the time took to mean the Nazis but which later listeners and interpreters say also was intended to include the victims of Stalin’s purges. Shostakovich himself had close and almost deadly encounters with Stalin and his secret police several times.
      Thank you as always, for your insights.

      Comment by welltemperedear — May 28, 2012 @ 9:46 am

      • Actually, it’s the 7th Symphony that’s the “Leningrad.” The 10th is the symphony with the scherzo that’s described in the composer’s alleged memoir, “Testimony,” as a musical portrait of Stalin.

        Comment by Ross Amico — November 10, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

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