Saturday, November 14, 2015

Elegia Eroica

On the way from Georgetown to Kennedy Center, the taxi passed by the Embassy of France. Candles, flowers, solace escorted the sorrow in the air. My heart was heavy, and even more when hearing the first piece of tonight's program: Elegia Eroica, Op. 29, composed by Alfredo Casella in 1916, performed by National Symphony Orchestra (NSO). Before performing, the conductor of NSO said "let's dedicated this music to the people of France."

When planning the concert program one year earlier, the NSO may not have predicted what would happen in Paris the night before this piece's premiere in DC. Alas, such a sad coincidence... In 1916, Casella dedicated the "Elegia" to "the memory of a soldier killed in war." (as he describes it in the score.) It's the lullaby a mother sings to her dead son during World War I. Born in Turin into a family of musicians, Casella was already in his thirties and had been living in Paris for almost two decades when the Great War broke out. In 1915 he returned to his native Italy and composed Elegia eroica as a musical memorial. As reported in an article from the January 1920 issue of The Musical Quarterly, the composer experienced "the first lightnings" of the war in Paris and "saw the flood of Belgian and French refugees bring consternation to the metropolis..."

The history repeats itself.

It's 2015, one hundred years after the music was composed. The Elegia eroica has – sadly – lost none of its topicality to this day; it is at once timeless and timely music.

If any words could describe my emotion after the concert, that will be the same recalled by the composer after Elegia's premiere in Rome in 1917,

"I returned home that night with a sense of loneliness greater than I have ever felt, before or since."

Georgetown Healy Hall
Healy Hall, Georgetown University
In memory of the Paris attack
 November 13, 2015

Photographed by Jennie Bai
Copyright ©Jennie Bai. All Rights Reserved.

No comments: