The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Which music best commemorates Memorial Day?

May 25, 2015

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is Memorial Day 2015.

graves with flags USE day

Try as I might, The Ear cannot think of better music to remember and memorialize the wounded and fallen than the “Nimrod” Variation from “Enigma” Variations by Sir Edward Elgar (below).

Edward Elgar

The holiday is much more complex and psychological than the usual funeral march permits.

It was, after all, the same music that the American documentary filmmaker Ken Burns used in “The War” — about World War II — played in a hauntingly wonderful solo piano arrangement that I simply cannot find on YouTube.

But the music’s meaning, and the way it affects you, can change in the instruments performing it.

So today I offer three ways or versions, arrangements or transcriptions.

First is the very popular YouTube video of the original orchestral version featuring Daniel Barenboim conducting in Carnegie Hall the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – with its great strings and brass — in memory of his predecessor, music director and conductor Georg Solti.

Second is a stirring rendition by a military brass band in England playing on Remembrance Day 2011 before Queen Elizabeth II:

And the third version is an a cappella choral version using the Latin lyric “Lux Aeterna” (Eternal Light) from the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead that was put together in England.

All versions are moving and attest to the emotional power of Elgar’s music.

But which version do you like best and why?

And is there other music you would play to commemorate Memorial Day?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music news: Queen Elizabeth II of England restored trust in the monarchy. The official celebration of her Diamond Jubilee runs today through Tuesday. So here is a march to mark her stately reign and success. What else should be played in her honor?

June 2, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

This is the year when Queen Elizabeth II of England (below) marks her Diamond Jubilee – that is, 60 years of sitting on the throne.

But guess what?

Guess who, despite ups and downs, saved the institution of the monarchy in the public’s eyes?

All the experts seem to agree: Credit goes to the Queen herself – and not the hipper, more photogenic and glamorous younger royals like the late and much hyped Princess Diana or the nerdy Prince Charles, or the gallant Prince Andrew. (But Price William and Kate Middleton do seem to be building on her precedent.)

It was Her Majesty herself  –  in the words of The Beatles, a pretty nice girl who doesn’t have a lot to say” and who, one fashion wag fondly and approvingly remarked, dresses like an oven mitt — who revived the popularity of the monarchy among a public that only a decade or two ago was growing increasing doubtful and negative about continuing the royal rule. She sure can half-smile and half-wave. Plus she stays dignified and largely silent, but seemingly amiable and hard-working.

I have already posted something about this the day that she actually ascended to the throne (versus the date of her official Coronation).

Here is a link to that posting back on Feb. 6:

And here are some links to official websites being used by the country and the royal family to mark the official Diamond Jubilee, which starts today and runs through Tuesday.,,20395222_20599947,00.html

Here is a trivia test of your knowledge about the Queen:,0,3418305.story

Finally, what music should I post as a Shout Out to QE2 on this grand occasion?

I thought about posting something by Sir Edward Elgar – maybe one of the less popular and less well-known “Pomp and Circumstance” Marches or maybe the first movement of the Symphony No. 1. But that is just too easy and too … well, common.

Then there are Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gerald Finzi, Arnold Bax, Hubert Parry and the other Brits, famous and neglected. But they seemed more pastoral than majestic.

So I opted instead for “Crown Imperial” March by Sir William Walton (below). The title seems to suit the occasion as does the music.

But I may be mistaken.

Maybe you can improve on me.

So, what greetings and good wishes would you like to leave for the Queen in the Comments section to mark her Diamond Jubilee?

And what piece of music do you think should be played to mark the occasion?

Classical music news: Today, Queen Elizabeth II of England marks 60 years on the throne. Do you know these 60 facts about her? What music should be played to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee? The Ear says Elgar.

February 6, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

OK, I’ll admit it: There is something endearing about Queen Elizabeth II (below), who today marks exactly 60 years of sitting on the throne.

The rest of the family, at least until the recent marriage of Prince Andrew and Kate Middleton (below), doesn’t quite seem to live up to the Queen’s dignified and very competent example.

Now, I am not particularly fond of royalty. I do not follow royalty and am not a feverish fan. In fact, I think that, for the most part, the French knew exactly what to do with royalty, as they demonstrated during the French Revolution. (If you think I’m being harsh, you would do well to remember the abusive privilege called the “rights of the lord” – the context of Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” — that is, to deflower any bride on her wedding night before her husband got the honor.)

I also recall the quip made by Egypt’s degenerate King Farouk (below), made in 1948 as he left for exile aboard a ship after the military coup by Nasser. “The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left — the King of England, the King of Spades, The King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, and the King of Diamonds.”

Well, I am not taking bets about how long the British monarchy will survive. For quite a while, popular opinion seemed to be running against it. But recently, it seems to have recovered and regained its footing a bit.

Queen Elizabeth II has by all accounts done a pretty good and pretty fair job during her reign. As some of the newly-minted royals, including Princess Diana (below) and Princess Fergie, have found out, it is not as easy or plus a job as it looks.

Here are some little-known “60 Facts About 60 Years”:

And here is how she prepared on Sunday to mark the anniversary:

And here is a UK government site listing the various events:

Anyway, what music should mark The Anniversary?

I am tempted to say you can’t do better than the “Pomp and Circumstance” marches of Sir Edward Elgar (below). The most famous one, No. 1, is often used for graduations but is still best suited to royal processions. It is both stately and sentimental. So the marches do seem the perfect occasional music, matching fine music and the right mood. But of them all, I think No. 4 ( at bottom) is the most suited to this particular Queen and this particular occasion.

But there are other British composers who have honored royalty, including William Walton.

And there is the dramatic coronation scene, complete with church bells, from Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.”

And there is a lot more.

Do you have a thought about Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne, which occurs today but which will be marked throughout 2012 and especially from June 2 to June 5?

Do you have a piece of music you would play and dedicate to her and her rule?

The Ear wants to hear.

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