Is war good or bad for music? Another one of those questions where the answer is yes.
Think of all the music that has been written during a war, lamenting a war, celebrating a war. The inspirational power of music has been used forever in military bands. Here’s how war connects to some well-known pieces.
1812 Overture, P. I. Tchaikovsky. This overture was actually written in 1880, in commemoration of the Russian defeat of Napolean’s forces in 1812, and not the U.S. war with Britain. It’s somewhat unique in it’s scoring, calling for a cannon to be fired almost a dozen times towards the finale.
Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”, L. v. Beethoven. Beethoven’s third is one of his most profound and momentous works. He originally dedicated it it honor of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was ruling France as the First Consul for a five year period. When he subsequently declared himself emperor in 1804, Beethoven furiously tore up the title page, and settle on Eroica, which is Italian for Heroic, as the replacement for “Sinfonia Buonaparte”.
Polonaises, Frederic Chopin. Chopin was a blatantly Polish composer, as one observer remarked “He is more Polish than Poland itself”. Some of his hallmarks are his 16 polonaises, traditional Polish dances with a military significance. Poland has had a tormented history, during Chopin’s life it was invaded and partitioned between Russia, Austria, and Prussia (Germany). While he was living in France, the 1830 uprising against the Russians was crushed, and Frederic was never allowed to go back to his homeland. He continued writing excellent music, putting the free spirit of Poland into song. A century later, when Poland was again conquered by Nazi Germany, the Reich banned the playing of the Chopin’s music outright.
I’ll write part II later..