The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Remember the Cellist of Sarajevo from 23 years ago? Now there is a Cellist of Baghdad. Read or hear all about him on NPR.

June 20, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

How music persists and endures in even the hardest and bloodiest and most unlikely of circumstances!

Perhaps you remember that during the Balkan wars, when Serbian snipers threatened daily life in Sarajevo, there was Vedran Smailovic (below), better known as the Cellist of Sarajevo, who defied the killers and resisted terror with beauty.

Sarajevo cellist Vedran Smailovic 1992

Now in the midst of the chaos created by religious conflict and the barbarism of ISIS comes The Baghdad Cellist. If you listen to the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear him playing — and it seems to be music, an excerpt from the solo suites for cello, by Johann Sebastian Bach, perhaps the most universal of composers.

And why the cello in both cases? Perhaps, The Ear thinks, because it so approximates the human voice and seems a perfect stand-in for a human being in such inhuman situations. What do you think?

Cellist of Baghdad 3 at home

Cellist of Baghdad

Read or hear about Karim Wasfi, the extraordinarily brave professional musician who performs at the sites of terrorist car bombings and who was recently featured on NPR or National Public Radio:

http://www.npr.org/2015/06/08/412284066/amid-violence-in-baghdad-a-musician-creates-a-one-man-vigil

 

 

 


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
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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.

 

 

 


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