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ClassicsOnline Home » Majestic Marches
The March has an
inevitable part to play in human history. Marco Polo remarked on the use of
music by the armies of China to terrify the enemy before a battle. Military
music, however, has a more precise purpose, whatever alarm it may strike into
the hearts of those who hear it. Drums and trumpets may serve as useful
signals, to advance or retreat, to eat or to sleep. The same instruments and
their near relations may serve to keep an army moving together, and may serve
to inspire feelings of bravery and patriotism. At the same time a march can
provide at suitable accompaniment to an occasion of solemnity, a wedding, a
funeral or a state ceremony.
Wars, with nations in arms to a greater extent than ever before in Europe, provided
a stimulus for military music and injected a martial element into much of the
music of the concert hall. Beethoven, after all, achieved one of his greatest
popular successes with the appalling Wellington's Victory, his Battle
Symphony. Since Napoleon the March has never looked back.
collection of Majestic Marches opens with Wagner's ceremonial march for the
entry of the nobles at the singing contest of the Wartburg in his opera
Tannhäuser. During the 1914-1918 War the French composer Ravel, representative
of a younger generation, suggested that Saint-Saëns would have been better
employed in a munitions factory than writing music. His French Military March
marks an earlier patriotic occasion, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
The Russian composer
Ippolitov-Ivanov was a product of the country's academic tradition, as it
developed in the later 19th century. He spent some time in Georgia, where he
re-organised the Tblisi Conservatory, and this is reflected to some extent in
music such as the Procession of the Sardar, the commander's march from his
first Suite of Caucasian Sketches, Opus 10.
Meyerbeer, whose work dominated French grand opera in the middle of the 19th
century, was born at Vogelsdorf, near Berlin, in 1791, the son of a rich and
cultured Jewish businessman, Jakob Herz Beer. Contracting his own name to
Meyerbeer, and substituting Giacomo for Jakob, he established himself at first
in Italy, where his operas enjoyed considerable success, following this with a
series of works for Paris, culminating in the spectacular L'africaine,
mounted in Paris after the composer's death in 1864. The Coronation March is
taken from Meyerbeer's opera Le prophète, based on the curious
Anabaptist attempt at primitive communism in Münster in the 16th century. The
opera ends with the Münster palace in flames, the Anabaptists opposing their
leader blown to pieces by an exploding powder magazine, and a general
conflagration that consumes the prophet of the title, John of Leyden.
first ballet, completed in 1876, was Swan Lake, on a subject that had
inspired him to amateur performance at home, on one occasion with the
assistance of the French composer Saint-Saëns. The second of the three complete
ballets. The Sleeping Beauty, scores, as completed in 1889, to be followed in
1892 by Nutcracker, composed with greater reluctance. Sleeping Beauty opens
with the March included here, for the King and nobility, at the christening of
the princess, where the whole trouble arises. Matters are later put to rights
in the third act, with a Wedding March to celebrate the revival of the princess
and her marriage to her rescuer. The act goes on to provide a rich series of
divertissements, peopled by well known fairy-story characters, however
inappropriate to the occasion. Majestic Marches includes a further example of
Tchaikovsky's music in his Marche solennelle, originally known as the
Serbo-Russian March and later as the Slavonic March, a patriotic work
written in 1876. The occasion of the composition, which includes Serbian themes
as well as snatches of the Russian national anthem, was the war against Turkey
in the Balkans, when Russia came to the assistance of Serbia and Montenegro.
composer Johannes Hanssen is remembered nowadays chiefly for the Valdres
March, followed here by Rimsky-Korsakov's Procession of the Nobles.
Rimsky-Korsakov was a naval officer by original profession and later an
Inspector of Bands in the Imperial Russian Navy. His Procession of the
Nobles from the opera Mlada, is a characteristic example of a kind
of music with which the composer must have been very familiar. Mlada,
set in pagan Russia, takes its title from the spectral bride, who returns,
after being murdered by her rival, to take her proper revenge The opera was
first staged in 1892.
composer Suppé might well be remembered for the extravagance of his full name,
Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo Cavaliere Suppé Dernelli. He was born in 1819
in Spalato (the modern Split) in Dalmatia, then under Austria, and moved to
Vienna in 1835 after his father's death. There he established himself as a
leading composer of operetta and director of music at the Theater an der Wien.
In 1865 he moved to the Carltheater where his operetta Fatinitza was first
staged in January, 1876.
Widow by Franz Lehár suggests the waltz rather than the march, although the
complications of its plot have a patriotic basis in the laudable attempts of
Baron Mirko Zeta to acquire the Merry Widow's fortune for the depleted coffers
of his country, Pontevedria.
The music of
Alfred Newman, a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, enters another world, that of the
cinema. In Hollywood he provided music for some 250 films, serving as
conductor, composer and arranger. He is represented here by a triumphal march
and a prelude from the film Captain from Castile, made in 1947. He is likely to
be further remembered for his scores for Wuthering heights, The prisoner of
Zenda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Robe, from a career that
started with music for Chaplin's City lights and ended with the score for
Airport in 1969.
The Norwegian violinist and composer
Johan Halvorsen was closely involved with the theatre, as director of music at
the Bergen Theatre and subsequently at the Christiania National Theatre from
1899 until 1929. His march for the entry of the Boyars, the ancient Russian
nobility, was written in 1895, during his tenure at the theatre in Bergen.
Léo Delibes sang
as a boy in the first performance of Meyerbeer's opera Le prophète in
Paris in 1849 and found his own early success as a composer in the field of
operetta. In 1870 he won a new reputation for himself with his ballet Coppelia.
The even less probable ballet Sylvia, or The Nymph of Diana, was
staged in Paris in 1876. The story is drawn from Ariosto and deals with the
love of the shepherd Amyntas for Sylvia, dedicated to the chaste service of the
huntress goddess Diana, hardly favoured by the god of wine Bacchus, whose
procession is here celebrated. Love, with material assistance from Eros,
Love for Three Oranges was written in 1919 with a libretto by the
composer based on the 18th century play by the Venetian dramatist Gozzi. The
Prince, cured of his inability to laugh by the stumbling of the wicked Fata
Morgana, is cursed and sent in search of three oranges guarded by a
bass-singing giantess. Successful in his search, he opens each, to find a
beautiful princess in each. The first two die, when the Prince cannot satisfy
their thirst, but the third is revived with a bucket of water and the Prince
would have married her at once, had she not been transformed into a rat. The
march is included in the popular suite Prokofiev made from the opera.
March is too well known to need explanation. It was written in 1842 for
performances of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Potsdam and
Berlin and celebrates the final wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, the noble
human framework of a fairy play that gave the composer full scope for evocative
music of translucent texture. The Wedding March brought the first night
audience to its feet and even Wagner was induced to offer the composer his
Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its
distinguished conductors. These include Vaclav Talich (1949 - 1952), Ludovit
Rajter, Ladislav Slovak and Libor Pesek. Zdenek Kosler has also had a long and
distinguished association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most
successful recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvorak.
During the years of its professional
existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the direction of many of the
most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene Goossens and Malcolm
Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti. The orchestra has
undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to Germany and Japan, and has
made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus label, for Supraphon, for
Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos labels. These
recordings have brought the orchestra a growing international reputation and
praise from the critics of leading international publications.
America's favourite "Pops" conductor, Richard Hayman is Principal
"Pops" Conductor of the Saint Louis, Hartford and Grand Rapids
symphony orchestras, of Orchestra London Canada and the Calgary Philharmonic
Orchestra, and also held that post with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for many
For over 30
years, Mr. Hayman served as the chief arranger for the Boston Pops Orchestra
during Arthur Fiedler's tenure, providing special arrangements for dozens of
their hit albums and famous singles. Under John Williams' direction, the
orchestra continues to program his award-winning arrangements and
Now residing in
New York City, Mr. Hayman's work is in constant demand, in every medium of
musical expression, from Boston to Hollywood. Though more involved with the symphony
orchestra circuit, Mr. Hayman has served as musical director and / or master of
ceremonies for the tour shows of many popular entertainers: Kenny Rogers,
Johnny Cash, Olivia Newton-John, Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, The
Carpenters, The Osmonds, Al Hirt, Andy Williams and many others.
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