-scale=1.0,maximum-scale=1.0" : "width=1100"' name='viewport'/> Plum Street Chili: The Surrender of General R. E. Lee to General U.S. Grant

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Surrender of General R. E. Lee to General U.S. Grant

Today is the 150th anniversary of the surrender of General Robert E. Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant which ended the military phase of the American Civil War.

To mark the occasion, Bede's Beat brings you a sample of Kurt Weill's settings of four of Walt Whitman Civil War poems.



Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war against the U.S., Kurt Weill -- who had fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and moved to the U.S. in 1935 -- began to set three of Walt Whitman's Civil War poems to music.

The poems Weill chose form a cycle which was completed by the addition of the setting of a fourth poem in 1947.

The first poem, Beat! Beat! Drums!, begins the cycle with an enthusiastic martial call to arms. The middle part of the cycle is devoted to the inevitable result of war: death.

The second, O Captain! My Captain!, about death of a leader in time of war, proved prophetic.


The third poem, Come Up from the Fields Father uses the imagery of autumn and the harvest to presage the grief of a mother upon learning of her son’s death -- a reminder of the toll of war on the home front.

The cycle concludes with Dirge for Two Veterans, and the contrast of Whitman's lament with the first poem in the cycle is reflected in music for each: while the first movement is sprightly, martial and optimistic, the final poem is set to a funeral march.