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Work

Franz Peter Schubert

Franz Peter Schubert Composer

3 Marches Militaires, D.733, Op.51

Performances: 31
Tracks: 38
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Musicology:
  • 3 Marches Militaires, D.733, Op.51
    Key: D
    Year: c.1822
    Genre: Other Keyboard
    Pr. Instrument: Piano 4-Hands
    • No.1 in D (Allegro vivace)
    • No.2 in G (Allegro molto moderato)
    • No.3 in Eb (Allegro moderato)
Franz Schubert's Trois marches militaires (Three Military Marches), D. 733 are among the many works for piano, four hands that the composer produced around the time of his first summer stay at the Count of Ezterházy's summer home in Zseliz (1818). The 21-year-old Schubert accepted a job teaching music to the Count's two young daughters, probably as much to get out of his father's house for a while as for the honor of the employment, and four-hand piano music is of course superb for such instructive purposes.

Piano, four hand music was also, by and large, the only Schubert instrumental music that publishers cared to purchase during his short lifetime; the Three Military Marches, D. 733 were published in 1826 as Opus 51. Each is a true ternary (ABA) design; the central episode is called a trio, and the opening music is recalled, verbatim, for the closing section.

The first Military March is marked Allegro vivace and is cast in the key of D major. An unharmonized fanfare begins the affair, paving the way for a lively, pompous main theme. The trio, like the trios of the other two marches in the Opus, moves to the subdominant (here, G major). By far the best-known of the three marches, this piece contains one of Schubert's most widely performed and quoted themes. Liszt, who transcribed much of Schubert's music, wrote a masterful paraphrase of it (Grand paraphrase de concert, S.426a). There have also been numerous band and other arrangements of this march; perhaps less flattering to its original conception is its appearance in Igor Stravinsky's Circus Polka—a George Ballanchine "ballet for elephants."

Allegro molto moderato is the indication at the head of Op. 51, No. 2. In G major, it opens with a robust, full-blooded harmonic bombast, but makes room for some gentleness foreign to the previous march as it unfolds.

The most characteristically march-like of the three is probably the Military March No. 3 in E flat major. There are some colorful harmonic twists at the end of the march-proper, and a humorous bounce to the step of the trio.

© All Music Guide

No.1 in D (Allegro vivace)

This, the first of three Military Marches that make up Schubert's Op. 51, is one of the more popular pieces for piano, four hands. It features an instantly catchy theme, an infectious sense of exuberance, and has that characteristic Schubertian quirkiness. Yet it is a work that has not been accorded the respect one might expect from such a widely performed and recognized piece. Stravinsky poked fun at its main theme, using giddy versions of it at the close of his comical ballet for elephants, Circus Polka (1942), and many pianists and musicologists find Schubert's music here quite amusing. So what's wrong with the piece? The main theme is hardly militaristic, sounding more like a satiric depiction of a soldier's march in its stiff and prim jollity. Some may even hear it as a sort of slapstick creation, but Schubert was not intending satire or humor here. Rather, he was merely expressing a more festive picture of a military march, much like one in a parade. The main theme is quite playful and joyous, even if it seems to express its bright mood in so elegant a manner. The middle section features some deftly wrought variants of the theme, the music having a graceful nonchalance. In the end, one must assess this work not by standards of how military marches typically sound, but on the merits of its music. By this criterion, this five-minute work is entirely successful.

© All Music Guide
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