Are there any great classical music pieces about American Wars?

I know little about classical music.

I think one of the most famous classical music peices is this one about a big war between france and britain…or something like that. The whole thing is a sort of musical story of the war.

Are their any such classical pieces of music about an american war such as the revolution, civil, or even modern wars?

I was thinking maybe one of those would be a little more interesting to me.

Although there’s lots and lots of music from U.S. wars, there seems to be very little great classical music thus inspired.

WWII brought out wonders from Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky is well known for the Napoleonic 1812 Overture. All we’ve got is “Marching through Georgia.” Sigh…

(You could argue that Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait” is based, at least in part, on the Civil War… And it’s darn fine music anyway…)


There’s always the Star Spangled Banner…

Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers & Hammerstein) arranged a Victory at Sea suite from the music he wrote for the television documentary series Victory at Sea, about the U.S. Navy in World War II. It may not be great classical music, but it sold very well as a record album.

The music you are thinking of may be Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, commemorating the victory of Russia in the Napoleonic Wars in 1812.

The soundtrack from South Pacific had some pretty good ditties in there. Is that too much of a stretch?

For something a little longer, the only things I can think of are film scores. Patton or Saving Private Ryan might be good places to start.

Marc Blitzstein, Airborne Symphony. Scored for male chorus, narrator and orchestra, the work addresses various aspects of World War II. Blitzstein (whom you may remember from “Cradle Will Rock”) composed the symphony as a special service assignment while serving in the U. S. Army.

Krzystof Penderecki, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Must hear to believe.

Aaron Jay Kernis, Symphony No. 2, inspired by the Persian Gulf War.

You might be thinking of Beethoven’s Wellington Victory, full of sturm and drang.

Mark Twain’s War Prayer has been set to music by David (?) Soldier.

Composer Roy Harris uses the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home for his piece of the same name

William Schuman composed a Prayer in Time of War

The musical 1776 by Sherman Edwards contains a song, Mama, Look Sharp, about a young man’s experience in the Revolutionary War.

John Williams composed a haunting theme for Born on the Fourth of July, played during the end credits.

There’s also Walter Piston’s wartime (WWII) Second Symphony.

Dello Joio composed Air Power, containing War Scenes, which includes the heart-melting “The Lonely Pilot’s Letter Home.”

Last but not least, don’t forget Sam Barber’s Adagio for Strings, indelibly associated with the movie Platoon.

American-born composer Frederic Rzewski’s “The People United Will Never Be Defeated” was inspired by the US-backed military coup in Chile in 1973. (some notes.) Like his occasional collaborator, Englishman Cornelius Cardew, he was deeply committed to socialism and opposed to American militarism and imperialism. I’ve not heard that particular work of Rzewski: generally he’s good but not quite in the first rank of modern music.

Another American composer, George Crumb, has produced work inspired by the Vietnam War,“Black Angels”.

Charles Ives, one of the greats of American music, wrote the song “They are there” during the Great War, and produced other works on military and historical subjects (see this article).

Englishman Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, about World War I, is a classic, including settings of war poetry by Wilfred Owen.

“Heroes, Lost and Fallen (A Vietnam Memorial)” by David Gillingham. As you can probably imagine from the title, it’s about Vietnam. Whether or not it’s great music is another question.

Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” is about America, though I don’t believe it is associated with any wars.

It’s still one of the best symphonies ever.

James Hewitt’s narrated organ piece, “The Battle of Trenton”, is a hoot.

And who could forget the haunting, lyrical strains of Jimmy Driftwood’s “Battle of New Orleans”?

In 1814, we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip’…

If that ain’t a great classical music piece, I don’t know what is.

Oh, I was going to plug War Requiem – you beat me to it! It’s one of my favorite pieces of music ever – the first time I heard it, I couldn’t get it out of my mind for days.

Since I can’t resist a nitpick, though, it debuted in 1962 and, I think, commemorates both world wars, although Owen’s poetry does in fact date back to WWI (indeed, Owen was killed in the war, a week before the armistice).