Documentary

Music in the Time of the Great War

Music, War, and Revolution: Volume I

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Cast

Philipp Blom

Christian Meyer

Wolfgang Schaufler

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Christian Gerhaher — Baritone

Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke — Tenor

Lars Woldt — Bass

Philharmonia Zürich

Fabio Luisi — Conductor

Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra

Alexander Liebreich — Conductor

Julia Sophie Wagner — Soprano

Katharina Magiera — Contralto

Program notes

The first in a three-part series on music before, during, and after the First World War, this volume traces the war’s impact on European composers as it irrevocably altered the musical landscape for generations to come.

Documentarian Andreas Morell gives a broad and generous overview of this tumultuous historical moment, when escapist fare tinged with rosy-eyed nostalgia coexisted alongside unsentimental, forward-looking Italian futurism. There are heartbreaking tales of what might have been—like that of promising composer Rudi Stephan, struck down in the war at age 28—and incredible stories of adversity overcome, as in the case of pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm to an enemy bullet and returned home to inspire the likes of Britten, Korngold, Prokofiev, and Ravel to compose works for the left hand only.

A particular focus is also given to Austrian greats Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, whose nationalist fervor turned to profound disillusionment as the true toll of war became evident, forcing them into crises of faith and art that would mark their lives and work forever.

A closer look: featured composers

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