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"War Symphonies"


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Author Topic: "War Symphonies"  (Read 1885 times)
kyjo
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« on: October 11, 2013, 02:31:41 am »

I think symphonies written during WWII are some of the most profound and emotional works ever written. Most of the works below are tragic, somber and defiant in tone, but some (i.e. Copland 3) are more celebratory and optimistic in character. Here is a list (by no means complete) of symphonies written during or directly after WWII that reflect the circumstances of the times:

Shostakovich: Symphonies 7, 8 and 10
VW: Symphony no. 6 (no. 4 seems to foreshadow the upcoming turmoil)
Prokofiev: Symphonies 5 and 6
Casella: Symphony no. 3
Britten: Sinfonia da requiem
Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements
Arthur Benjamin: Symphony
Copland: Symphony no. 3
Holmboe: Symphonies 4 Sinfonia Sacra and 5
Miaskovsky: Symphonies 20-25
Hartmann: Sinfonia Tragica, Symphonies 1-4 and 6
Khachaturian: Symphony no. 2
Honegger: Symphonies 2 and 3 Liturgique
Marinuzzi: Symphony in A
Pizzetti: Symphony in A (on YT)
Schulhoff: Symphony no. 5
Irgens-Jensen: Symphony in D minor
Koppel: Symphonies 2 and 3
Englund: Symphonies 1 War and 2 The Blackbird
AJ Potter: Sinfonia "De Profundis"
Kalabis: Symphony no. 2 Sinfonia Pacis (written in 1961 but clearly reflects the tragedy of war)
Malipiero: Symphonies 3 della campane and 4 In memoriam
Orthel: Symphonies 2 Sinfonia Piccola and 3
Saeverud: Symphonies 5 Quasi una fantasia, 6 Sinfonia Dolorosa, and 7 Salme (Psalm)
Kletzki: Symphony no. 3 In memoriam
Panufnik: Symphonies 2 Sinfonia Elegiaca and 3 Sinfonia Sacra
Polovinkin: Symphonies 5-9 (only nos. 7 and 9 recorded)
Popov: Symphonies 2 Motherland and 3 Heroic
Cikker: Symphony 1945 (on YT)
Wiren: Symphonies 2 and 3
Arnell: Symphonies 1-3
Bate: Symphony no. 3
Gibbs: Symphony no. 3 Westmorland
Lloyd: Symphony no. 4 Arctic
Antheil: Symphony no. 4 1942
Diamond: Symphonies 2-4
Hanson: Symphony no. 4 Requiem
Piston: Symphony no. 2
Schuman: Symphonies 3-5
Moroi: Symphony no. 3
Ohki: Symphony no. 5 Hiroshima

What do members think of these works and how they were inspired by the war? Any I left out? Smiley


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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2013, 08:49:13 am »

This may be an old chestnut - but there is considerable evidence that DSCH-7 was never intended as "the Leningrad".  The composer's sketches for the symphony date back before the war.  It's possible that Shostakovich was 'leant on' by the Composer's Committee to retitle the work?  There is not an autograph of the score in which the title "the Leningrad" appears in the composer's own hand.  Personally I would say this is not a 'war symphony' - because it is about something else. I realise this thinking runs counter to 'everything which is usually said' about the Seventh Symphony Sad

documentary information about the 1939 sketches of the 7th Symphony

Bear in mind that the USSR entered WW2 in summer of 1941, when the Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union.  Thus any sketches from 1939 date from peacetime, as understood in Soviet history.
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albert
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2013, 11:05:59 am »

I would add:
Antheil Fourth Symphony : IMHO a magnificent work (and here the composer takes himself seriously).
Blizstein "Airborne Symphony" (indeed more a cantata, and very, very patriotic).On record we may listen Bernstein with, as reciters , Robert Shaw (rather inflated) or Orson Welles (controlled and direct).
Barber Second Symphony (later repudiated by the composer, except for the second movement).But recorded several times.
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albert
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« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2013, 11:10:07 am »

W.Schuman Symphony n.9 "The Ardeatine Caves" dates from 1968, but it's directly connectet to WW 2.
I would add Mario Zafred "Sinfonia della resistenza".
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dyn
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« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2013, 12:01:43 pm »

This may be an old chestnut - but there is considerable evidence that DSCH-7 was never intended as "the Leningrad".  The composer's sketches for the symphony date back before the war.  It's possible that Shostakovich was 'leant on' by the Composer's Committee to retitle the work?  There is not an autograph of the score in which the title "the Leningrad" appears in the composer's own hand.  Personally I would say this is not a 'war symphony' - because it is about something else. I realise this thinking runs counter to 'everything which is usually said' about the Seventh Symphony Sad

documentary information about the 1939 sketches of the 7th Symphony

Bear in mind that the USSR entered WW2 in summer of 1941, when the Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union.  Thus any sketches from 1939 date from peacetime, as understood in Soviet history.
I seem to recall that Galina Ustvolskaya claimed he'd been almost finished with the Seventh sometime around 1939 or 1940 and was initially planning to dedicate it to Lenin, or something. There's also probably something in Testimony but that depends on how seriously one chooses to take that particular item of the literature....

There's also Martinu's 3rd from... 1943? Somewhat contemporary with Lidice which is not a symphony but for orchestra and in the same vein. It's usually supposed to represent his reaction to the destruction of war, whereas No. 4 is supposed to be a celebration of peace breaking out or something like that. Most of the American symphonies of the period, like American involvement in the war Wink, are however comparatively superficial.

Also not symphonies, but I suppose Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, Nono's Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatta in Auschwitz and other such pieces belong in a similar category....
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2013, 12:33:53 pm »

Also not symphonies, but I suppose Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, Nono's Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatta in Auschwitz and other such pieces belong in a similar category....

Yes indeed... although probably we might want a separate discussion of non-symphonic works, along with other works that were written in the aftermath of WW2 rather than during it?  Inevitably such a colossal event as WW2 would be bound to influence works for decades afterwards... especially since it's quite normal for reaction to develop through an arc of relief-thanksgiving-patriotic fervour-doubt-horror-revulsion-retrospection-reconsideration...

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kyjo
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« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2013, 03:38:49 pm »

Thanks for the additions, Alberto! (BTW I already had the Antheil on my list.)
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kyjo
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« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2013, 04:28:00 pm »

There's also Martinu's 3rd from... 1943? Somewhat contemporary with Lidice which is not a symphony but for orchestra and in the same vein. It's usually supposed to represent his reaction to the destruction of war, whereas No. 4 is supposed to be a celebration of peace breaking out or something like that.

Indeed, Martinu's Third and Fourth Symphonies would qualify.
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cilgwyn
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« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2013, 06:08:35 pm »

I would add:
Antheil Fourth Symphony : IMHO a magnificent work (and here the composer takes himself seriously).
Blizstein "Airborne Symphony" (indeed more a cantata, and very, very patriotic).On record we may listen Bernstein with, as reciters , Robert Shaw (rather inflated) or Orson Welles (controlled and direct).
Barber Second Symphony (later repudiated by the composer, except for the second movement).But recorded several times.
Antheil! Now he's a composer I really like! Smiley
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dholling
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« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2013, 06:13:13 pm »

I don't think Myaskovsky's 20th and 21st symphonies apply, given the specific situation surrounding Russia, which was attacked by June of 1941. Myaskovsky responded to it with his Symphony no. 22 and its language and expressive mode reflect that.
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Christo
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« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2013, 06:56:33 pm »

To add just a few that spring to mind:

Tubin 4, 5 and 6
Orthel 3
Andriessen (Hendrik) 3
Vermeulen 4 and 5
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… music is not only an `entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.  RVW, 1948
kyjo
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« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2013, 07:29:06 pm »

I don't think Myaskovsky's 20th and 21st symphonies apply, given the specific situation surrounding Russia, which was attacked by June of 1941. Myaskovsky responded to it with his Symphony no. 22 and its language and expressive mode reflect that.

Good point! His 24th and 25th are definitely his major "war symphonies". The slow movement of the 24th is a deeply moving tribute to the fallen.
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kyjo
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« Reply #12 on: October 11, 2013, 07:33:01 pm »

To add just a few that spring to mind:

Tubin 4, 5 and 6
Orthel 3
Andriessen (Hendrik) 3
Vermeulen 4 and 5

I had Orthel 3 (a deeply poignant work) in my original list, but didn't think of the others, so thanks! Tubin's 4th reminds me a lot of RVW 5 because of their lyrical, pastoral mood despite the turmoil of the times. Both works are not without some dark undercurrents, though.
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dholling
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« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2013, 10:12:30 pm »

I don't think Myaskovsky's 20th and 21st symphonies apply, given the specific situation surrounding Russia, which was attacked by June of 1941. Myaskovsky responded to it with his Symphony no. 22 and its language and expressive mode reflect that.

Good point! His 24th and 25th are definitely his major "war symphonies". The slow movement of the 24th is a deeply moving tribute to the fallen.

I agree, and I love how he ends the 25th (extremely well captured by Svetlanov and his Russian Federation SO).
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Toby Esterhase
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« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2013, 01:59:22 am »

Khrennikov Second

Bernard Stevens Symphony of Liberation
Mario Zafred Fourth
Meanwhile the amount produced in USSR is so considerable to deserve its own topic
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