Poll: What Music Should Be Performed at Obama's Inauguration?

Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Cellist Yo Yo Ma (R), violinist Itzhak Perlman (L), and Pianist Gabriela Montero perform John Williams's  'Air and Simple Gifts' during the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009 Cellist Yo Yo Ma (R), violinist Itzhak Perlman (L), and Pianist Gabriela Montero perform at the Obama Inauguration in 2009 (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

When Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2009, a group of four musicians played Air and Simple Gifts, a somber, elegiac piece by film composer John Williams. They were cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gabriella Montero.

The performance was not without a minor dispute – it was later revealed that the musicians were playing along to a recorded track because the cold weather could have resulted in errant intonation or broken strings. But it carried the symbolic value of placing classical music before millions of viewers.

With that in mind, we'd like to know: who should perform  in January and what should they play?

Take our poll and leave a comment below.


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Comments [34]

Michael Meltzer

@Rosanna: The Dvorak Te Deum, a great masterpiece, would be an irony. Dvorak was to be honored in 1893 by the American government and was commissioned to write a new work for the occasion, to be performed before the President and a jont session of Congress. In Europe, the usual protocol for an affair of state was a Te Deum, and that's what he wrote. When he proudly presented it, it was refused for reasons of "separation of church and state."
Dvorak was furious, and dashed off a piece of crap called "The American Flag" in two weeks time, a cantata that is now completely ignored by the musical community. That is what was played at the ceremony.

Nov. 18 2012 08:47 AM
Rosanna from NYC

Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" and Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever"-- definitely. RE Dvorak, already mentioned here: In addition to the Symphony "From the New World", he also composed a Te Deum that includes Native American drums in the instrumentation.

Nov. 17 2012 02:44 AM
David from Flushing

The whole of idea of outdoor music in January gets a bit unreasonable to the extent that musicians are faking their playing to preserve their instruments. If sense prevailed, we would have the ceremony in the comfort of the House Chamber and reduce expenses and hypothermia.

We have few public ceremonies in this country and American music seems most appropriate for the event. Unfortunately, American music came of age after the golden age of classical music and the pickings are slimmer here than in Europe.

Nov. 16 2012 07:55 PM
Sunny from Queens

Holst "The planets" - Saturn.

Nov. 13 2012 07:25 PM
Peter Frank from Los Angeles

The choral version of Charles Ives' "He Is There" -- military preparedness by a One-World-Nationer. The first two movements of Ives' First String Quartet would go over well, too (especially as contrast). Or, if a full symphony orchestra is available, the 3rd movement of the 4th Symphony (effectively an orchestration of the First Quartet's opening movement).

Nov. 13 2012 12:16 AM
Michael Meltzer

Bloggers engaged in partisan squabbling here: please grow up. The whole world will be watching this event.

Nov. 11 2012 08:23 AM
Michael Meltzer

Fanfare for the Common Man has come to be expected. It is brief and powerful and if omitted would be missed. There should be at least one John Philip Sousa selection. There should be at least one contemporary American piece written specially for the occasion.

Nov. 11 2012 08:19 AM
J from NYC

Randall Thompson Testament of Freedom

Nov. 10 2012 05:29 PM

Such hate! A few sarcastic comments about a death march and a funeral dirge and the thinned skinned start to boil over. Take a chill pill folks! It's too funny!

Nov. 09 2012 06:40 PM
LES from WDC

Sibelius violin concerto third movement. Why not?

Nov. 09 2012 09:26 AM
Republican right AMEN from a sinking america

Chet, you're a perfect symbol of the Republican right - so lacking any cultural sophistication or awareness that you think there's a "Wagner death march."

OHHHH, pooh pooh frank, spot on about your 1st observation, but so wrong about your 2nd. have a nice life....

Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods): Siegfried's Death And Funeral March

Nov. 09 2012 08:58 AM
Frank from LES

Chet, you're a perfect symbol of the Republican right - so lacking any cultural sophistication or awareness that you think there's a "Wagner death march."

I'd vote for some Copland but maybe the first movement of his 3rd Symphony. Or how about some Roy Harris, or Howard Hanson? A lot of those mid-20th-century American composers are shamefully neglected (including by WQXR).

Nov. 09 2012 08:12 AM

wagners "death march"

Nov. 09 2012 07:34 AM

I support Fanfare for the Common Man by Copland and music by Elliot Carter whose great longevity should be celebrated by our president. The Shaker melody - Simple Gifts - is also a lovely American song that expresses our ideals.

Nov. 08 2012 09:08 PM
John Steele from San Francisco CA

How about " The Death of a Nation ", By the founding fathers

Nov. 08 2012 07:08 PM
Carolyn from New York City

Why not commission a young composer from one of our wonderful music schools for a piece?

Nov. 08 2012 03:41 PM
Bernie from UWS

I love how the (dwindling) group of right-wing loonies are finding their way to a NYC classical radio station website. The last gasps of a dying breed.

I'd personally go for something current - by a composer like Aaron Jay Kernis, John Adams or Michael Torke (has written some great ceremonial music). It's consistent with Obama's message of looking forward and renewal.

Nov. 08 2012 03:21 PM

Chopin's Funeral March

Nov. 08 2012 12:07 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

How about Randall Thompson's short choral piece, "the Last Words of David" [text:
He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds;
as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
Alleluia. Amen.]

Short and (as I remember from the last time I sang it) very effective.

since it's short, the Copland "Fanfare for the Common Man" could easily fit in as well.

No pop stuff: we should keep the standards high for a momentous occasion.

Nov. 08 2012 11:33 AM
Anon from PA

Walter - I have the piece for you. Funeral march of the Eroica Symphony. Funeral dirge is particularly appropriate since the nation is drowing in debt (not a political comment; a statement of fact) and losing the international competitiveness on which we pride ourselves.

15 minutes of the most somber depressing music ever written should go over well.

Nov. 08 2012 11:26 AM
John Rigney from New Orleans

Fanfare for the Common Man

"Zadok the Priest" has been played at every British coronation for the past 300 years. Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" was played during the festivities at Bill Clinton's inauguration and at Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. I'd like to see a tradition of playing it at every presidential inauguration.

Nov. 08 2012 11:02 AM
walter dorritie from nyc

some kind of funeral dirge.

Nov. 08 2012 10:38 AM
John P from Portland, Oregon

"The best is yet to come and baby that's fine . . ."
Frank Sinatra of course.

Nov. 08 2012 10:21 AM
John Flory from Morristown, NJ

The Fanfare for the Common Man

Nov. 07 2012 10:36 PM
Sherry Taylor-Woods from Houston Tx

Al Green himself! Singing a gospel tune and of course, "Let's Stay Together

Nov. 07 2012 06:31 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

I believe the only "live" music played at the inauguration is provided by the U.S. Marine Band while most everything else is pre-recorded and "faked" as it were. Music of John Philip Sousa should be played to keep things moving along and in keeping with the President's campaign theme of "forward" as in march!

Nov. 07 2012 06:10 PM
Andrew from Lower Merion, PA

Arrangements from either Gershwin's songs or Bernstein's ballets/shows. Maybe a rendition of Summertime, or something else from Porgy & Bess, On the Town, or Fancy Free. Nice short movements, tuneful, fun.

Nov. 07 2012 02:54 PM
C Tanis

Dvorak's New World Symphony

Nov. 07 2012 02:06 PM

I feel that it should be something by an American Composer/performer(s). That being said, I feel it needs to something that can be performed outdoors in possibly very cold weather. Any one of the Military Bands could do a great job. Ed

Nov. 07 2012 02:03 PM
Peter Olson from Sheffield, AL

Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," Joan Baez's "Joe Hill," Rogers and Hammerstein's "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," the Beatles' "Here, There, and Everywhere," Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson's "Heartland," and Aretha Franklin's "Respect."

Nov. 07 2012 01:38 PM
John Green

"Simple GIfts," as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, suits President Obama to a "T" beautifully endorsing the President's message of love: How about: http://youtu.be/u-KCt9oZzBY

Nov. 07 2012 11:11 AM
sethdavis from Rye, New York

They should definitely ask Lawrence Brownlee to sing. Besides the obvious reasons he is an American musical phenomenon, and was a big Obama supporter.

Nov. 07 2012 10:06 AM
Ed Koral from NYC

Fanfare for the Common Man by Copland

Nov. 07 2012 10:03 AM

It doesn't matter; the music that the TV audience hears will have been previously recorded.

Nov. 07 2012 09:19 AM

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