Elegies for Kennedy

November 22 2013

Igor Stravinsky, Elegy for JFK (1964), for voice and three clarinets setting text by Auden (see comment below), Italian premiere, Cathy Berberian, players of Orchestra Filarmonica Romana, Pierre Boulez, Rome, March 4 1965; as far as I know not commissioned:

Darius Milhaud, Meurtre d’un grand chef d’état, à la mémoire de John F Kennedy, opus 405 (1963), Orchestre National de lORTF, Eleazar de Carvalho, Paris, March 16 1967; commissioned by the Oakland Symphony and performed in December the same year:

Roy Harris, Epilogue to Profiles in Courage: JFK (1964), National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Theodore Kuchar; commissioned by Broadcast Music, Incorporated, to be played at the International Festival of Los Angeles County, spring 1964:

Herbert Howells, Take him, Earth, for cherishing (1964), text from Helen Waddell, translator, Prudentius (348-413), Hymnus circa Exsequias Defuncti (text, or the part set, in comment below), Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Dominick DiOrio; commissioned for a joint American and Canadian memorial service for Kennedy in the National Cathedral, Washington:

Roger Sessions, Piano Sonata 3 (1964-65), Robert Helps, live, Merkin Hall, New York, March 6 1996; commissioned?:

Leonard Bernstein dedicated his recently-finished Symphony 3, Kaddish, to Kennedy’s memory.

5 Responses to “Elegies for Kennedy”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Stravinsky asked Auden for words. The result was hardly one of greatest poems.

    “When a just man dies,
    Lamentation and praise,
    Sorrow and joy are one.

    Why then? Why there?
    Why thus, we cry, did he die?
    The heavens are silent.

    What he was, he was:
    What he is fated to become
    Depends on us.

    Remembering his death
    How we choose to live
    Will decide its meaning.

    When a just man dies,
    Lamentation and praise,
    Sorrow and joy are one.”

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Take him, Earth, for cherishing:

    “Take him, Earth, for cherishing,
    to thy tender breast receive him.
    Body of a man I bring thee,
    noble even in its ruin.

    Once was this a spirit’s dwelling,
    by the breath of God created.
    High the heart that here was beating,
    Christ the prince of all its living.

    Guard him well, the dead I give thee,
    not unmindful of his creature
    shall he ask it: he who made it
    symbol of his mystery.

    Comes the hour God hath appointed
    to fulfil the hope of men,
    then must thou, in very fashion,
    what I give, return again.

    Not though ancient time decaying
    wear away these bones to sand,
    ashes that a man might measure
    in the hollow of his hand:

    Not though wandering winds and idle,
    drifting through the empty sky,
    scatter dust was nerve and sinew,
    is it given to man to die.

    Once again the shining road
    leads to ample Paradise;
    open are the woods again,
    that the serpent lost for men.

    Take, O take him, mighty leader,
    take again thy servant’s soul.
    Grave his name, and pour the fragrant
    balm upon the icy stone.” 

  3. davidderrick Says:

    CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley also died on November 22 1963.

    I can remember the BBC television announcement of Kennedy’s assassination, including a still satellite picture of the moving car, and the words of the announcer not long after: “We regret to announce that President Kennedy is dead”.

    I remember my mother’s shock.

    I also remember watching the first-ever episode of Dr Who the following evening.

  4. davidderrick Says:

    As well as Elegy for JFK, Stravinsky wrote Variations: Aldous Huxley in Memoriam (1963-64), his last work for orchestra. This performance may be with the LPO and Robert Craft:


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