On Air Now
Smooth Classics with Myleene Klass 10pm - 1am
The First and Second World Wars cut short the lives of many composers and musicians who would have gone on to greater things had they lived. Here are a few to remember.
Butterworth was one of the most promising British composers of his generation, best known for The Banks of Green Willow and his settings of A Shropshire Lad. He served as a highly regarded platoon leader during the Great War and was shot by a sniper during the battle of the Somme. His body was never recovered.
Browne was a composer, pianist, organist, music critic and friend of the poet Rupert Brooke. Vaughan Williams wrote Browne a reference describing him as having "a most musical nature and his artistic judgement and perception are remarkable." He saw action in the Dardanelles, and was wounded in the neck. During the Third Battle of Krithia he took part in an attack on Turkish trenches on 4 June 1915 during which he was wounded first in the shoulder and then the stomach. He died soon afterwards.
An Olympic Gold Medal winner for rowing in the 1908 London games, Kelly was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve with his friends, the poet Rupert Brooke and the composer William Denis Browne. Kelly was wounded twice at Gallipoli, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and reached the rank of lieutenant-commander. At Gallipoli he wrote his scores in his tent at base camp, including his most enduring composition, a tribute to Brooke - Elegy for String Orchestra. Kelly himself died aged 35 in the Battle of the Somme.
Rudi Stephan was the most promising German composer of his generation who was killed at the age of 28. He completed his only opera, Die ersten Menschen, shortly after the outbreak of the war, and it was eventually premiered in Frankfurt, five years after his death. He was killed by a bullet in his brain fired by a Russian sharpshooter on the Galician Front, now part of Ukraine.
The Spanish pianist and composer Granados was invited to give a recital at the White House by President Woodrow Wilson, but on their return, he and his wife missed their boat to Spain. Instead, they took a boat to England where they boarded a ferry to take them to France. On 24 March 1916, while crossing the Channel, the ferry was hit by a German torpedo. Granados drowned after he jumped out of his lifeboat to save his wife who also drowned. Ironically, the area of the boat where his cabin was located did not sink and the passengers in that part of the boat survived.
A close friend of Gustav Holst, Scotsman Cecil Coles - pictured right - died near the Somme in April 1918 at the age of 29 during a heroic attempt to rescue some comrades. When war broke out, he had joined the Queen's Victoria Rifles and became their bandmaster. While on active service, he sent manuscripts home to Holst. Coles' deeply felt work has been 'rediscovered' through a 2001 recording and is now receiving the attention it deserved.
Best-known today as a teacher of Gerald Finzi, Farrar wrote a large number of works for orchestra, voices and organ. He enlisted in the Grenadier Guards in 1915 and joined the regiment in August 1916. He was then commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion Devonshire Regiment. He was killed in the Somme in 1918 after being at the front for two days.
Gurney studied at the Royal College of Music under Stanford, who rated his student highly. Gurney enlisted as a private soldier in the Gloucestershire Regiment in February 1915, and composed music during his service. He was gassed in September 1917. After the war he suffered a serious breakdown and, despite studying for a brief time with Ralph Vaughan Williams and continuing to compose and write poetry, spent the last 15 years of his life in mental hospitals.
Jehan Alain wrote brilliant organ works. At the start of World War II, Alain served as a dispatch rider in the French army. When on reconnaissance, hearing approaching Germans, he abandoned his motorcycle and engaged the enemy with his rifle, killing 16 of them before being killed himself. He was reportedly found beside his motorbike, with music papers lying all around. He posthumously received the Croix de Guerre for bravery.
Fleishman was a promising student of Dmitri Shostakovich who began a one-act opera - Rothschild's Violin - based on a Chekhov story. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Fleishman volunteered for the front and was killed before he could complete his opera. In memory of his student, Shostakovich rescued the manuscript from besieged Leningrad (pictured), finished and orchestrated it. Later, Shostakovich exerted influence so that the opera should be published and performed.
Schulhoff was a Czech composer and pianist, who studied under Dvorak and Debussy. During the Great War, he served on the Russian front in the Austro-Hungarian army. He was wounded and was in an Italian prisoner-of-war camp when the war ended. In 1941, the Soviet Union approved his petition for citizenship, but Schulhoff was arrested and imprisoned before he could leave Czechoslovakia. He died from tuberculosis in a concentration camp.
A Czech composer and follower of Janáček, Haas was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1941 where he was one of several Czech-Jewish composers. He wrote at least eight compositions in the camp. In 1944 Theresienstadt was promoted in a propaganda film. Haas can be seen taking a bow after a performance of his Study for Strings (pictured). Subsequently 18,000 of the prisoners, including Haas, were murdered in gas chambers.
Dutchman Kattenburg spent years in hiding during the Second World War. Like Anne Frank, he was eventually betrayed and sent to Auschwitz where he died in 1944. For more than half a century only one of his works - a sonata for flute - was known. But then Kattenburg’s niece searching the attic of her mother’s house found a box with dozens of other works, most of them outstanding.
Ullmann was an Austrian composer, conductor and pianist of Jewish origin, who wrote highly charged, dissonant music. He died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in October 1944.
The signficant Austrian composer was shot and killed by an American Army soldier following the arrest of his son-in-law for black market activities. The incident occurred when, 45 minutes before a curfew was to have gone into effect, Webern stepped outside the house so as not to disturb his sleeping grandchildren, in order to enjoy a cigar given to him that evening by his son-in-law.
A Czech pianist and composer, Klein organized the cultural life in Theresienstadt concentration camp. In 1940 he had been offered a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, but by that time anti-Jewish legislation prevented his emigration. In Theresienstadt, he wrote works for string quartet, a string trio, and a piano sonata. He died in unclear circumstances during the liquidation of the Fürstengrube camp in January 1945.