Strike Up The Band! - Marches around the World
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Strike up the Band!
Sousa Coates Gounod Schubert Gershwin
Julius Fučik (1872-1916) was born in Prague and studiedat the conservatory in that city at a time when Antonin Dvořak was also apupil there. He was an extremely productive composer with over 400 works to hisname, among them operettas, chamber music, masses and songs. Today, however, heis almost exclusively known for his marches, more than a hundred of them, ofwhich two have become especially famous: Einzug der Gladiatoren
(Entryof the Gladiators, [Track 5]) and Florentiner Marsch
. The first ofthese was originally called Grande Marche Chromatique
but, inspired bythe gladiatorial combats in ancient Rome, Fučik later gave it its present,much more thought-provoking title. Anyone who has ever been to the circuscannot have avoided hearing it. One might imagine that this was Fučik'smost popular march, but an international survey placed the FlorentinerMarsch
in first place. It has the subtitle Grande Marcia Italiana
,and the word Florentiner
is an allusion to the city of Florence.
Eric Coates (1886-1957) was a viola player and a foundermember of the Beecham Symphony Orchestra; he later became section leader in theQueens Hall Orchestra, where he remained until he resigned in 1918 to devotehimself entirely to composition. One of the reasons for his masterfulorchestration was certainly that he had seen and heard the orchestra fromwithin. The 1920s and 1930s were a golden age for Coates, with the developmentof broadcasting. Unlike many other English composers he does not seem to havebeen especially interested in writing film music, but his score for The DamBusters
(1954) includes the well-known The Dam Busters March
It is said that Carl Teike (1864-1922) lost all interest inmilitary matters when a newly arrived regimental conductor suggested that heshould throw away a newly composed march. It happened to be Alte Kameraden
(),so it is to be hoped that the conductor was forced to eat his words. Teike leftthe army for the police-force, continuing to write marches. Ever since it firstappeared, Alte Kameraden
has been one of the world's most frequentlyplayed marches.
George Gershwin (1898-1937) composed a whole series ofunforgettable songs with texts by his brother Ira; his first major hit was Swanee
Gershwin was also the first who seriously understood how to combine jazz andsymphonic music, in his Rhapsody in Blue
, which was composed in January1924 and was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe. The premi?¿re was given by Paul Whiteman'sorchestra, with Gershwin himself as soloist. When Gershwin sought out MauriceRavel in Paris with a view to taking lessons, Ravel apparently asked if he couldtake lessons from Gershwin instead. He also wrote a series of musicals, andmany of his most famous songs were first heard in such a context. This applies,for instance, to Strike Up The Band
(), from the musical of the samename, first given in Philadelphia in 1927.
Josef Franz Wagner (1856-1908) (no relative of Richard) hassometimes been called 'the Austrian march king' and it is certainly true that Austria - especially Vienna - was close to his heart. In 1899, after 21 years, he gave up a careerin the armed forces and organized his own military band, which soon becamepopular. He composed more than four hundred pieces, but it was his marches thatbrought him the greatest fame. Unter dem Doppeladler
(Under the DoubleEagle, ), the name is an allusion to the two eagles in Austria's coat of arms, is one of the most famous of all marches.
It is exceptional for a person's name to be applied not onlyto a type of ensemble but also to a type of music, but that is exactly whathappened to Johann Schrammel (1850-93) and his brother Joseph. They were bothviolinists in the Schrammel Quartet that they formed in 1877. The otherinstruments were the guitar and clarinet (later accordion). At first the musicthey played was typically Viennese, and the Austrian capital was also thesubject for Johann's march Wien bleibt Wien
(Vienna will always be Vienna, ).
Victor Herbert (1859-1924) is nowadays best known for hisoperettas, but he was one of the most significant figures in American music inthe early twentieth century. Born in Dublin, he received his musical educationin Germany and Austria, and in 1886 arrived in America, where he becameprincipal cellist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He was an exceptionallytalented musician and an outstanding conductor. He was also one of the first tocompose music for films, and an enthusiastic champion of the phonograph. Thewell-known March of the Toys
() comes from his operetta Babes inToyland
, first performed in Chicago in June 1903.
Frederick J. Ricketts (1881-1945) composed under thepseudonym Kenneth J. Alford. When he was just fourteen he lied about his age inorder to join the First Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment and, after seeingservice in India, he joined the Royal Military School, Kneller Hall. He issupposed to have helped a number of other students who were given the task ofcomposing music but were not as proficient as he was. In 1930 he became directorof music for the Plymouth Division, Royal Marines. Under his leadership thisensemble achieved worldwide fame, with tours to France and Canada. During the Second World War, Alford, by then promoted to the rank of major, took theensemble all over England. He retired a year before his death. His most famous marchis Colonel Bogey
(), not least because of the prominent r??le it playsin the film The Bridge on the River Kwai
(1957). It also becameextremely popular during the Second World War among British soldiers, whoprovided it with texts unsuitable for printing.
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) is indeed the march king, inall categories. He personified turn-of-the-century America, with its relativelyunsuspecting character and irresistible energy. His own orchestra oftenundertook tours around the globe and did pioneering work in introducing musicto hundreds of towns all over America. Sousa composed a large number ofmarches, of which The Stars and Stripes Forever
, Washington Post
are among the most popular. Here we have chosen torepresent him with a march that is not played quite so often, The LibertyBell
, from 1893 (). Sousa was inspired to write the piece in Chicago, when he saw a painting of Philadelphia's famous Liberty Bell. By a happy coincidencehe received a letter from his wife the next day in which she explained howtheir son had taken part in a ceremony centred on this very bell and had thus shownhimself to be a true patriot. Patriotism, of course, was a matter of honour forSousa. Even if the march is relatively seldom played, it may nevertheless soundstrikingly familiar, perhaps because John Cleese and his colleagues used it asthe signature tune for the BBC comedy Monty Python's Flying Circus
Not much is known about Kurt Noack (1895-1945), the composerof Heinzelmannchens Wachtparade
(Brownie's guard parade). He was activein Berlin and Stettin (Szczecin) and wrote a number of works for salonorchestra, among them Valse Scandinave
and Marionetten um Mitternacht
was his 'big hit'.
During his lifetime Louis Ganne (1862-1923) was regarded asone of the leading composers of lighter music in France. He studied at theParis Conservatoire, where Massenet taught him composition and Cesar Francktaught him the organ. He had scarcely left the Conservatoire when he started tomake a name for himself as the composer of marches, waltzes and mazu