Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

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the war to end all wars

November 11, 2011

the war to end all wars

photo LACO archives

November 11, 2011 is largely remembered in the United States as Veteran’s Day, but elsewhere in the world it is known as Armistice Day. For some, this day marks the conclusion of the “War to End All Wars,” World War I, and the armistice that was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that brought the horrible conflict to its end. It symbolizes a time of tremulous hope and enormous despair and marks a turning point in modern history with repercussions still felt today. What followed the war and the ensuing Treaty of Versailles was a time of tremendous artistic creation with the likes of Stravinsky, Hemingway, Picasso and Ives. Those who experienced the Great War entered with bravado and left empty, searching for meaning in the void.

Today, we mark not only those who sacrifice their lives to serve their country, but those who died in the hopes of creating a better world. November 11th marks the beginning of the modern era and a disillusionment that has never left us. But, it is through great art, through the outpouring of creativity that we find solace. I vaguely remember my grandfather wearing a poppy to mark the day; he would recite the poem of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea “In Flanders Field” that evokes the feeling of ultimate sacrifice and loss.

Other works, such as Stravinsky’s Histoire du Soldat and Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin explore the concept of aimlessness and search for meaning that defined the “Lost Generation”. Ravel’s work, which LACO will perform on December 10 & 11 as part of the Orchestral Series, is a tribute to the composer’s friends who died during the war. Each of the six suites pays tribute to those individuals who perished in the trenches of France. LACO recorded Stravinsky’s work under Gerard Schwarz and it evokes a wartime aesthetic that also marked a turning point in Stravinsky’s compositional style. A short piece, it is worth a listen on this day. Making a bargain with the Devil, the eponymous Soldier wanders through life, searching for his youthful innocence. This interaction of the everyday and the beyond perfectly summarize the feelings of loss and struggle without comprehension that many feel during and forever after war.

Although the significance of November 11th has altered throughout the years, its essence remains the same: to recall those who have served their country and never forget what they surrendered.

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