April 1, 1946 marks the New York premiere of Marc Blitzstein’s Airborne Symphony, an impassioned work written during Blitzstein’s service in the Army Air Force during World War II. Blitzstein composed the symphony in 1943 and 1944 while he was stationed in England, but the original manuscript was lost, along with the rest of his belongings, as they were shipped home the following year. Blitzstein rewrote the entire score on the ship as he returned to the U.S. for demobilization. The lavish score is divided into three parts that connect the birth of flight with the role of airplanes in modern warfare. The work ends with a repeated warning to humanity: bombardment may be necessary at times, but it is nothing to glory in or gloat over.
Leonard Bernstein’s advocacy of the work resulted in two recordings made about twenty years apart. Listen to the 1966 recording with the New York Philharmonic and Choral Art Society, Orson Welles as narrator, and tenor Andrea Velis as soloist.