La Guerra


For mezzo-soprano, baritone, mixed choir and symphony orchestra.

La Guerra is designed to commemorate the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018 – the day after my 80th birthday – and with BREXIT looming, I was determined to give it an uncompromising European slant, up to and including a passing reference to the European International Hymn, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. It combines 5 different poems in 4 different European languages. 

            La Guerra, by the contemporary Spanish poet Antonia Álvarez Álvarez, is the central text of the work and holds the composition together. It laments the misery of (any) war in a short litany of woes that characterise its inhumanity, futile suffering and ignominious degradation of life. The other poems, interspersed between the verses of La Guerra, were chosen to highlight other aspects of life or relate to war and peace in other ways.

            Violeta, also by Antonia Álvarez Álvarez, contemplates the beauty of a single violet; in all its simplicity the sort of thing wars trample on regardless.

            Hinter Bäumen, by the German (Jewish) poet Elsa Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945) and written during the First World War, expresses an outpouring of love, its rejection and consequent sense of hopelessness.

            Strange Meeting (extract), by Wilfred Owen who, with Siegfried Sassoon, is probably the best-known war poet of all and served in the First World War, talks about a dream in which he meets an enemy soldier whom he recognises as a fellow human being he killed, drawn into the same madness as he himself. I only used the first ten and the concluding five lines of the poem, leaving out the long middle section.

            La Paix, by Lauer Christine, a pupil at the Lycée de Garçons in Luxemburg, may have been written as an entry in a competition. It is a very simple but straightforward statement about peace in Europe and the price paid for it.

Full text can be downloaded here.

Total duration ca. 16 minutes.

La Guerra can be preceded by my overture Tombeau des Vies Manquées, written in 2015 to commemorate that year’s Armistice Day and lasting 6 minutes.