Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Monday, July 28

World War One in Europe, Bach in America

Synopsis

On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, effectively beginning the First World War.

Early in the course of that war, a French composer named Albéric Magnard became a national hero when he died defending his home against invading German troops. Maurice Ravel tried to enlist as a French pilot, but was refused because of his poor health. Instead, he became a truck driver stationed at the Verdun front. British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was too old to be drafted, but he enlisted as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Another British composer, George Butterworth, would be killed by a sniper during the Battle of the Somme.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I is estimated at 37 million. Empires fell. National borders were redefined. Old systems of values seemed shattered forever.

The Austrian violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler served briefly in the Austrian Army in 1914 before being wounded and honorably discharged. He arrived in then-neutral New York on November of 1914, and remained in America through the war years.

In 1915, Kreisler made a recording of Bach's Double Violin Concerto, performing with the Russian violinist Efrem Zimbalist. Austria and Russian may have been at war in Europe, but in a cramped New Jersey recording studio, at least, the music of Bach provided a brief island of peace and harmony.

Music Played in Today's Program

J. S. Bach (1685 - 1750) Double Concerto (recorded 1915) Fritz Kreisler, Efrem Zimbalist, vn;string quartet Buddulph CD 21/22

Additional Information

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