The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. What music will you play or listen to in order to commemorate the tragic events and loss of life? | September 11, 2014

By Jacob Stockinger

Today marks the 13th anniversary of 9/11 and the tragic events during the terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States, in New York City on the Twin Towers; on Washington, D.C,, and the Pentagon; and on United Airlines Flight 93, which passengers made crash into a Pennsylvania field before it could destroy the U.S. Capitol or White House.

Twin Towers on 9-11

There is a lot of great classical music that one could play to commemorate the event and loss of life. There are, of course, requiems by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, Giuseppe Verdi and Gabriel Faure.

There are masses and other choral works by them and also Ludwig van Beethoven and others. And there are a lot of opera arias and choruses as well as art songs.

There are large-scale symphonic and choral work as well as more intimate chamber music and solo works, especially the solo cello suites by Johann Sebastian Bach, one of which, thanks to cellist Vedran Smailovic (below) in 1992, became am emblem of the awful and bloody siege of Sarajevo by the Serbian army. Chamber music by Franz Schubert — such as the slow movement of the Cello Quintet — would at the top of my list.

Sarajevo cellist Vedran Smailovic 1992

Then there is the contemporary work “In the Transmigration of Souls” by the American composer John Adams. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was written specifically, on commission from the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to remember 9/11 and which uses actual tape recordings of the events and responses of that awful day. And another work by Steve Reich.

Myself, I tend towards the tried-and-true, the pieces of music that never fail to take me to the appropriate place in memory and sorrow.

So today, at the bottom, I offer a YouTube video of the last movement of the profoundly beautiful and moving  “German” Requiem by Johannes Brahms. It is more secular than religious, and it asserts that “Blessed Are the Dead … for They Rest from Their Labors and Their Works Shall Live After Them.”

Hard to disagree, don’t you think?

So here it is.

But be sure to let us know what music you will be playing and what piece or pieces you favor to commemorate 9/11.





  1. This compilation, by Thomas Moore, has been a favorite of mine (for any occasion where I want to find calm and peace) since I found it in my local library about 10 years ago. Many of the pieces were unfamiliar to me at the time but instantly inspired feelings of humanity and reflection. I’m sure you can find individual recordings of almost all of the pieces on it on Youtube; though the performances on this CD are all exemplary.

    Comment by Patrick — September 11, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

  2. I do not commemorate D-Day, Pearl Harbor, or 9-11. More people died in our responses to these events than died in the events themselves. Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin with the U.S. stopping its bombing of everything and everyone that seems to want to be left to fight its own battles, without our sticking our capitalistic war-noses into it. Let’s play some Middle-Eastern oud music, to remind us that more people are dying at the hands of members of their own religious faith in Syria and Iraq today than died in that one day here. As our “leaders” decide whether or not to bomb some more, let’s hear the voices of the people who bear the burden of no electricity to play music with, no water to drink after their day’s work, a day probably spent trying to find water, and not enough food to keep their children, much less the adults, alive in a war zone. Warning: a loud ad precedes this video.


    Comment by 88melter — September 11, 2014 @ 10:02 am

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