It is strange that at a time when the people of the world are seeking peace, that so much time is spent looking at wars, and heroes of wars, and so little time is spent investigating those who had the strength to stand out from their societies and refuse to fight.
Here are three twentieth century British composers, who refused to fight in the world wars, and suffered much, both financially(as people refused for some time to play their work) creatively (as people poured huge scorn and hatred against them) and socially. They went on to be seen as three of the great composers of the century, and wrote three of the greatest anti war pieces of music, two of them commissioned to celebrate the same event, the opening of the Leicester Cathedral, which stands next to the bombed out remains of the old Cathedral.
The three composers were Benjamin Britten (1913-1975), Michael Tippett !905-1998 and Arthur Bliss 1891-1975. Britten and Bliss, were commissioned
to write works for the consecration of the new Leicester cathedral, Britten wrote his War Requiem, for orchestra, string quartet, choir and soloists, he set the Requiem with anti war poems by Wilfred Owen interspersed between the movements. He wrote it with specific performers in mind, so that there were, British, Americans Germans and Austrians on the same stage creating a musical harmony together, in a spiritual building that had been build, because its predecessor had been destroying in the German bombing during the second world war. Here is the complete War Requiem op.66, recorded at the Schlewig-Holstein Musik-festival by the NDR Sinfonieorcheter conducted by John Eliot Gardener, thanks to luzifergross and YouTube:
Bliss, who had fought in the trenches during the first world war, was very much against the second world war, and refused to fight, wrote a work called Morning Heroes for orchestra, choir, narrator and soloists, in it he takes scenes from each step of war, so the first is the husband saying goodbye, which was Hector’s farewell to Andromache from Homer’s The Iliad, the other peace being by Walt Whitman (2) the Iliad again, Wilfred Owen, and Robert Nichols. By doing this the very destructive effect of war on the family is shown. Here is an excerpt played by the The London Philharmonic conducted by Brain Blessed, with the Hertfordshire Chorus, thanks to atsusiueno and YouTube :
The Third piece was also written just after the Second World War, and was Tippett’ss oratorio Child of our time, written after Tippett had heard the terrible story that led to the Chrystal night rounding up and killing of Jewish people, after a young Jew, having watched his family being killed by the Nazi’s assassinated the German Ambassador to Austria, and then took his own life. He structured the work like a Bach Cantata, with the story being interspersed with Afro American spirituals ( some of the best orchestrations of the spirituals ever) Tippett tried to get various poets to write the libretto, but gave up and wrote the words himself. Here is an extract from Child of Our time performed in the Philharmone of Haarlem by Het Promenade Orkest and the Cincertkoor Haarlem and soloist conducted by Ger Vos on 19th November 2011, with thanks to CK Haarlem, and YouTube: