UW News

December 3, 2014

Music meets history in three-concert series on World War I

UW News

Poster for the UW School of Music's concert series "Music from the War to End All Wars"As Robin McCabe did research for the “Music from the War to End All Wars” concert series, she was reminded of the terrible brutality of World War I, which snuffed out millions of lives across Europe and devastated a generation.

But McCabe, professor of piano in the University of Washington School of Music and creator of the concert series, was also struck by how powerful, passionate music arose from this era nonetheless — that even in such dark times, “the creative spirit does not hunker down and hide.”

Indeed, it can soar — as those who attend the three-afternoon concert series will hear for themselves. The concerts, featuring performers from throughout the school, are at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 7, 2014, and March 8 and May 3, 2015, all in Brechemin Auditorium.

“Music from the War to End All Wars”
A three-part concert series, each preceded by a UW faculty lecture.
Tickets $10. Lectures at 4 p.m., concerts at 4:30 p.m.

Dec. 7: “Music of Debussy and De Falla”
Pre-concert lecture by Robert Stacey, professor of history and dean of the College of Arts & Sciences: “A Gathering Storm? Artistic Crisis and the Coming of the First World War.” Learn more.

March 8, 2015: “Music of Ravel, Bartók and Prokofiev”
Pre-concert lecture by Ronald Moore, professor of philosophy: “Music in the Silentness of Duty; Peace Where the Shell-Storms Sprouted Red.” Learn more.

May 3, 2015: “Music of Debussy, Ives and Prokofiev”
Pre-concert lecture by Steven Morrison, professor and chair of music education: “Music to My Ears.” Learn more.

“I think the emergence of beauty in adverse times is fascinating,” McCabe said. “You can take it to our time. What was the impulse after 9-11? It was to make music across the country.

“So here are these artists, who are contemplating something on a scale they’ve never seen — mass atrocity, mass brutality — and they turn to their creativity, and this is what they hope will endure.”

“Music from the War to End All Wars” presents pieces from composers who were working a century ago at the outbreak of World War I, though some would have preferred side arms to sheet music had circumstances allowed.

“Quite a few of these composers enlisted as soldiers or tried to enlist,” McCabe said. “Ravel — his health was not good enough, but they let him drive an ambulance.”

In her research, McCabe ran across a letter from Maurice Ravel to composer Maurice Delage written in 1914, a few days before Ravel tried to enlist in the Army Air Corps, even as he was starting to write the trio for piano, violin and cello. That composition that will be heard in the March concert.

“I’m working, yes,” he wrote. “I’m working with an insane certainty and lucidity. But, during that time, the blues are at work, too and I find myself sobbing over my sharps and flats!”

Each of the Sunday afternoons of music will be preceded by a lecture. Professor of history and UW College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robert Stacey will talk on Dec. 7, Philosophy Professor Ron Moore on March 8 and Steven Morrison, professor of music education, on May 3.

McCabe said faculty graciously supported the idea of the series and suggested pieces to play and students whose talents they thought would fit well with the theme. She said she appreciates the fact that students from different areas of the School of Music are brought together for these performances.

Robin McCabe

Robin McCabe

McCabe said she’s been pleased with audience reactions to two previous series: “French Connections” in 2011 celebrated the 150th anniversary of Debussy’s birth, and last year, “Circle of Friends” took up the music of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms.

“They come to all three because they like the contextualization. And I find that when I speak to audiences, a little bit of context — the nuances that surrounded the creative process — gives it another dimension.”

She said she likes to put together a concert program something like a good dinner.

“Some hors d’oeuvres and some main courses,” she said, “so that the courses play upon each other to the best effect.”