Concert ‘Wartime Masterpieces’ April 28 - May 1
What do Benjamin Britten, Maurice Ravel and Dimitri Shostakovich have in common? Their compositional styles may be diverse, but all three composers were deeply affected by the world wars in the first half of the twentieth century. Their music was written both despite and because of the strife they encountered.
Ravel had already started writing his Piano Trio before World War I broke out, but he had reached a hiatus. When he heard the announcement of France’s entry into the First World War, Ravel hurried to complete the work, revealing to his close friend Maurice Delage, “If you only knew how I suffer . . . . I just keep working so as not to hear anything. Yes, I am working with the persistence and concentration of a madman. But suddenly the hypocrisy of this conduct overwhelms me, and I begin to sob over my note paper.” Whatever he was feeling, Ravel managed to transcend his suffering and help us escape to a better world through his music.
Britten was born in 1913 so he lived through both World Wars. He was a pacifist, a conscientious objector, and his music reflects the edginess of living in a world where the possibility of war is always looming. In the early sixties, about the same time as he wrote the Solo Cello Suite No.1, he composed the War Requiem, which was written to commemorate the dead in both World Wars. Shostakovich himself declared this to be one of the greatest works of the twentieth century.
Shostakovich was profoundly affected by the horrors perpetrated by the retreating German army during the last years of World War II as well as stories featured in the Soviet press that SS guards at the death camps of Treblinka and Majdaenk had forced Jewish prisoners to dig their own graves and dance upon them. The composer used both Russian folk tunes and a Jewish dance to portray the juxtaposition between innocent beauty and macabre cruelty. The piece is still today one of the most powerful dramatic and moving statements about the horrors of war, and, in my view, it would be too much to bear except for its icy perfect beauty of expressiveness.
A little background on this choice of program- as the war broke out in Ukraine, I was feeling the horror of war. At the same time I was thinking about the 2022- 23 Vetta season. Originally, I wanted this program to begin the season. It would explore how war can motivate composers to write great works of art even though it causes great suffering. The last program was supposed to be about peaceful inspiration, other works of art inspiring composers, to create an evolution from war and strife to peace and resolution in the season programming. Well, artist availability dictated a reversal in the order, and here we are, the war still raging.
We dedicate this program to the resilience of humanity, the ability to make something beautiful and worthwhile out of humanity’s greatest flaw.
Yours in Music,
Joan Blackman, Artistic Director
Britten Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello, Opus 72
Shostakovich Trio No. 2 in E minor, Opus 67
Ravel Piano Trio
Concert Dates & Venues
- 2pm, Friday, Apr. 28th, 2023 at West Point Grey United Church
- 7:30pm, Saturday Apr. 29th, 2023 at West Vancouver United Church
- 2pm, Sunday Apr. 30th, 2023 at Pyatt Hall
- 7:30pm, Monday May 1st, 2023 at ArtSpring
Vancouver or West Vancouver Concerts: $30 for single tickets
Salt Spring Island Concerts: $25 for single tickets