The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What is good music to listen to on Labor Day and to honor work? Here is a list to choose from. Can you add more? | September 7, 2015

REMINDER: The 37th annual Labor Day Concert by the Karp Family will take place tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Admission is FREE. The program includes works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Benjamin Britten as well as William Shakespeare.

Here is a link to a recent post with more details:

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Labor Day, 2015. (Below is a famous work photo by American photographer Lewis Hine.)

working Lewis hine photo

How can you celebrate it in music?

Here is a list of classical music that pertains to labor.

And here is a poll from famed radio station WQXR FM in New York City:!/story/poll-what-music-best-captures-spirit-labor-day/

Below is “The Fruits of Labor” by famed Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

Diego Rivera The Fruits of Labor

Finally, here are links to three previous posts about Labor Day that The Ear did.

The first one is from 2014, when the day seemed a good occasion to remember all the other unnamed people besides performers — from the box office and administration to the stage — who make the musical performances we enjoy possible:

The second post is from in 2013 and talks about the hard work of creating art and performing it  — such as required from a huge symphony orchestra (below) or a small ensemble or an individual. It also features other lists and something fitting from the “Farewell Symphony” by Franz Joseph Haydn:


The final posting is from 2010 and features lots of reader suggestions as well as Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”:

What music would you suggest listening to on Labor Day? Tell us in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.

Giuseppe Verdi’s hammer-pounding “The Anvil Chorus” from the opera “Il Trovatore” usually ranks high on all the lists and suggestions.

So for this year’s Labor Day, here it is in a YouTube video at the bottom, in a lively and visually engaging and muscular performance from “Live From the Met in HD”:




  1. Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice — it should be the anthem of those of either sex practicing Sisyphean housewifery.

    Comment by slfiore — September 7, 2015 @ 9:59 am

  2. I’ve been listening to Carl Grapentine on WFMT this morning and his annual Labor Day program of music about various workers including “The Schoolmaster” (Haydn Symph. 55), Sullivan’s “Gondoliers”, Dukas’ “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, Mozart’s “Impresario”, numerous pieces about soldiers and sailors and, of course, “Whistle While You Work.”

    Comment by Anders Yocom — September 7, 2015 @ 8:37 am

  3. I’ll put in a vote for Rzewski’s monumental Variations on “The People United Will Never Be Defeated,” particularly as recorded by Ursula Oppens. Her performance is no longer on YouTube, regrettably.

    I have read review of Christopher Taylor playing the piece (on a double-bill with the Goldbergs), and I sincerely hope he will bring that program home to Madison some day soon. May 1 would be even better than US Labor Day for that.

    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — September 7, 2015 @ 8:12 am

  4. Something by Paul Robeson.

    Here’s a lovely clip featuring him singing Old Man River (among other things) for the workers then building the Sydney Opera House:

    Comment by fflambeau — September 7, 2015 @ 2:11 am

    • Note the above video also features Robeson singing about Joe Hill, a labour hero.

      Robeson had an amazing voice and took some strong stands in support of workers worldwide and for human rights.

      Comment by fflambeau — September 7, 2015 @ 2:13 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,235 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,181,681 hits
%d bloggers like this: