The Wall Street Journal continues to explore the legacy of World War I, with an on-line examination of one hundred legacies of the Great War to End All Wars, including music and literature. Fiona Matthias looks at the classical music inspired by conflicting impulses of patriotism and sorrow:
The emotional wounds of war as well as patriotism resonate through the music of many of the most influential composers of the early 20th century.
Edward Elgar’s work is infused with both sentiments, including “For the Fallen” (1915-17); “Carillon” (1914) and “Polonia” (1915), in honor of Belgium and Poland, respectively; and “The Fringes of the Fleet” (1917).
While Elgar, in his mid-50s when war broke out, was only able to respond in his music to the carnage taking place on the other side of the English Channel, there were others directly touched by it. . . .
The Great War, of course, claimed millions of lives, among them one of Britain’s most promising writers, George Butterworth, known for “The Banks of Green Willow,” which is now regarded by many as an anthem to unknown soldiers everywhere. A recipient of the Military Cross, Butterworth died at the age of 31 during the Battle of the Somme and his place of burial remains unknown.
The BBC Music Magazine has also been exploring the musical legacy of World War I, with its June issue dedicated to the composers of that era, including George Butterworth, and the July issue featuring a CD of Elgar's The Spirit of England.