Nationalism in Music Va pensiero – music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Temistocle Solera Verdi wrote the opera Nabucco in 1842. Nabucco tells the story of the Jewish exiles living in Babylon after the First Temple was destroyed. Va pensiero is a chorus sung by a group of exiles sadly waiting by the Euphrates River, longing for their homeland.
Verdi’s music was incredibly popular in Italy during his lifetime. Some historians believe that Va pensiero was the unofficial anthem of the Risorgimento. When Verdi died in 1901, thousands of people crowded the streets of Milan and spontaneously sang Va pensiero. Several times over the years, Va pensiero has been suggested as the new official anthem of Italy.
The chorus is sung in Italian. An English translation is provided below. Fly, thought, on wings of gold;
Place the following events in chronological order:
Mazzini sets up a revolutionary republic in Rome.
Victor Emmanuel II is crowned king of Italy.
Verdi writes Va pensiero.
Leaders of Europe gather at the Congress of Vienna.
When the chorus sings “Oh, my country so lovely and lost!”, what period of Italian history might they be referring to?
How might have Italian nationalist leaders interpreted the last two lines of the song?
Finlandia Hymn – music by Jean Sibelius, text by Veikko Antero Koskenniemi Finlandia Hymn was originally part of a larger piece of music called Finlandia. Finlandia was written in 1899 and 1900. Sibelius intended his composition to be a protest against the Russian Empire. At that time, Finland was ruled by Russia, which was increasing censorship of Finnish expression. The only way that Finlandia could be performed in concert was by renaming the piece. One such name was “Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring.”
In 1941, text by Koskenniemi was matched with the Finlandia Hymn, in recognition of Finnish independence from Russia, which was achieved in 1917. The hymn is sung in Finnish. An English translation is provided below. O, Finland, behold, your day is dawning,
The powers of the night are vanquished by the morning light,
Your day is dawning, O land of birth.
O, rise, Finland, raise up high
Your head, wreathed with great memories.
O, rise, Finland, you showed to the world
That you drove away the slavery,
And that you did not bend under oppression,
Your day is dawning, O land of birth.
Define: firmament, vanquished
Locate modern-day Finland and Russia on a map. (pages 1000-1001) Describe in words where Finland is located relative to Russia.
In your opinion, what is the tone of this music? Does the tone match the words? Why or Why not?
Choose a quote from the text that describes Finland’s history with Russia. Write the quote, then explain in your own words why that quote is appropriate.
Land of Hope and Glory – music by Sir Edward Elgar, text by A.C. Benson Land of Hope and Glory is also part of a larger work, March No. 1 from the Pomp and Circumstance Marches by Elgar. It was written in 1901 and Benson’s text was added to one section in 1902. At that time, the British Empire was at its height of power and prosperity.
Land of Hope and Glory is very popular in England and has often been suggested as new national anthem. This is the longest piece of music in this set. Most of this piece is orchestral; the text is not sung until the end of the piece. Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet.
Using the maps on pages 623, 643, 660, describe how far in the world the British Empire extended when Elgar and Benson wrote this piece.
What does the line “Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set” mean? How does it relate to your answer to question 2?
The music in this piece is in two distinct sections. In your opinion, what is the tone of each section? What images came to your mind as you listened to each section?
America the Beautiful – music by Samuel Ward, text by Katharine Lee Bates The text of America the Beautiful began as a poem. Bates was an English professor from Massachusetts who was hired to teach a summer course in Colorado. It was her journey across the United States in 1893 that inspired her poem.
Samuel Ward originally wrote the music of America the Beautiful for another set of words in 1888. The music and the poem were first matched up in 1904 and by the 1920s had become popular across the nation. Several times it has been proposed as a new national anthem.
Bates’ original poem was four stanzas but typically all four stanzas are not performed.
performed by the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters Chorus
O beautiful, for spacious skies,