The 100th anniversary of the first Armistice Day will be marked Saturday with a Rochester Symphony Orchestra concert that features music from the period, and more modern selections.
“We’re trying to do two things,” said Jere Lantz, orchestra director. “We want to commemorate the first Armistice Day, and also salute veterans from all wars.”
Veterans will be recognized during the program, which is heavy on music related in particular to the Great War, also known to history as World War I.
The concert, opens, however, with a rousing piece from World War II, Morton Gould’s “American Salute,” which was written in 1942. The tune is based on the Civil War song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” “It’s a slam-bang opener,” Lantz said.
From there, though, the music and the mood become more somber. “The Banks of Green Willow,” George Butterworth’s achingly beautiful music based on English folk songs, was made more bittersweet when the composer was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
Next comes a piece nominated as the saddest music ever wriitten, Barber’s Adagio for Strings. “It’s a gorgeous piece of music,” Lantz said.
The first half of the concert will conclude with Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, featuring pianist Andrew Staupe on a piece Ravel wrote for an Austrian pianist, Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm during the war.
“It’s very hard to play,” Lantz said, “but it’s a spectacular piece.”
Staupe returns after the break to play a suite by Spanish composer Enrique Granados, who lost his life when the ship on which he and his family were traveling from the United States back to Europe in 1916 was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat.
The second half of the concert includes pieces by John Williams for the films “War Horse” and “Saving Private Ryan,” as well as the “Colonel Bogey March,” by Frederick Ricketts, a song best known from the film “Bridge over the River Kwai.”
Finally, the symphony will be joined by the chorale for a selection of songs that were popular in England during the Great War, including “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” “Home Sweet Home,” “They Were Only Playing Leapfrog” and “When This Lousy War is Over.”
Fittingly, the concert will end with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
“We want to bring people together,” Lantz said of the concert. “Any time we can do that, it’s great. There are too many people trying to tear us apart.”