The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. and this week brings Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth nations including Great Britain, Canada and Australia. To honor veterans -– both military and civilian — The Ear plays the “Nimrod” section from Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.” What music would you play? | November 11, 2014

ALERT: On this Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the UW-Madison Guitar Ensemble, under the direction of UW-Madison professor Javier Calderon, will give a FREE concert of music by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Gilbert Bibarian and others.

Javier Calderon color

By Jacob Stockinger

He may be wrong, but The Ear does not think that Veterans Day — and Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth nations of the former British Empire — is just about war. And there is plenty of music one could play that aims to depict war and conflict.

But Veterans Day -– which was originally Armistice Day and was intended to mark the end of that vicious meat-grinder World War I that started 100 years ago this year and officially ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 –- is more about people and loss. So is Remembrance Day.

world war1 somme

Given the way “total war” has evolved and been waged since World War I — just look at the Middle East and ISIS these days — one has to wonder: Shouldn’t civilians, including women and children, also be honored? When war is waged, usually all suffer and all sacrifice.

Not that the armed forces don’t come at the head of the line and hold a special place in our thoughts.

But these days a Requiem for All seems fit and appropriate.

That is why The Ear can’t think of a more moving and quietly appropriate piece of music than the “Nimrod” section from the Edwardian era British composer Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations.

That is probably why the prize-winning and popular documentary filmmaker Ken Burns also used the same music, arranged for solo piano, in his 2007 epic film about World War II called, simply, ‘The War.”

Here it is, played by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra  in a popular YouTube with more than 2.5 million hits — as a salute to all those who suffered and who served:




  1. […] Classical music: Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. and this week brings Remembrance Day in the Commo… […]


    Pingback by Veteran’s Day – Armistice Day – Remembrance Day – November 11, 1937 | Past Daily — November 11, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

  2. It is my personal stance that being a veteran is NOT a worthy state in and of itself. It depends on what you are a veteran of.
    Conscripted veterans have a WAY higher degree of moral standing than volunteers to any military. Lately, our military is NOT used for the defense and security of our “nation”. It is used for the reinforcing and expansion of our Empire. When we go into a place, ruin it, then never leave, or leave the indigenous people to be our dependents and wards, or else face all the same problems that have plagues them for centuries, that ain’t Defense, it’s Offense-ive.
    So, the music I propose for Vet’s Day is Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, by Krystof Penderecki. Also, Guerrelieder by Arnold Schoenberg. That piece is all about how war is a dark, confusing miasma that defeats and destroys the humanity in all of us who participate, with or without a gun in our hands.
    Our own generals admit that nation-building is NOT what our armed forces are trained or equipped to do. Let’s honor the veterans of the peace movements around the world, because the only thing that takes more courage than dying for your country is living for it. = Penderecki. = Schoenberg.



    Comment by 88melter — November 11, 2014 @ 11:58 am

  3. I would also play the Nimrod..So moving and stately.


    Comment by Ann Boyer — November 11, 2014 @ 6:23 am

  4. Nimrod is a great selection for this remembrance. But I prefer Leonard Bernstein’s unique take on this piece (with a far slower tempo) that seems to penetrate to the core of Elgar’s notion. You can see it on YouTube here:


    Comment by fflambeau — November 11, 2014 @ 5:59 am

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