The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: For you, what classical music best celebrates Memorial Day?

May 27, 2013
7 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Monday, May 27, is Memorial Day – or Decoration Day, as it used to be known when solders’ graves were marked with more  flowers and flags, and fewer words and less rhetoric.

army grave with flag and flowrds istock photo

Music is such a profound part of our memories, of how we celebrate events and people.

So once again, The Ear asks: For you, what classical music best celebrates Memorial Day?

Here are links to some past years of my suggestions and suggestions – including music by J.S. Bach, Franz Josef Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Samuel Barber and so many others — from readers, found in the COMMENTS section:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/classical-and-classic-what-music-do-you-think-best-expresses-memorial-day/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/classical-music-here-is-what-the-ear-would-like-to-see-used-on-memorial-day-to-honor-veterans-and-the-fallen/

And last year I linked to a great story about Taps that was done on NPR:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/classical-music-for-memorial-day-and-as-a-tribute-to-all-veterans-here-is-the-long-and-moving-history-of-taps-from-npr/

graves with flags USE day

Here is another link to another NPR story that features a moving aria of elegiac music by Henry Purcell:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2011/05/29/136721458/what-music-helps-tell-your-memorial-day-stories

And here is yet another NPR story that features some wonderful links to appropriate music – including Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem” and John Adams’ “The Wound Dresser,” based on the poetry of Walt Whitman (below), who was a hospital nurse during the American Civil War.

Walt Whitman 2

It also mentions and uses an audio clip of one of my favorites, “Le Tombeau de Couperin” by Maurice Ravel (below), which dedicates each movement to a different friend who had been killed in World War I, even while the music remains quietly wistful of earlier times and does not wear its heart if its sleeve.

I also find Ravel’s “Pavane pour une princesse defunte” (at bottom, played in a live concert recording so reservedly and so movingly by the great Sviatoslav Richter, despite the audience’s coughing) in a YouTube video) a poignant, bittersweet and very moving expression of sadness and nostalgia, especially in the original solo piano version which seems more intimate and introspective in its aloneness, rather than orchestral version:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104341851

ravel

So once again I ask: For you personally, what music best embodies and expresses Memorial Day?

Leave those suggestions and links in the COMMENTS section.

The Ear wants to hear.


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