WSKG Classical: March Mania

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Join WSKG Midday Classics with host Bill Snyder all month long for March Mania. Explore the variety of ways marches have contributed to music throughout the world.


March Mania: March 1-4

3/1: Ralph Vaughan Williams: Toccata Marziale

St. David is the patron saint of Wales and this is St. David’s Day AND the first day of March Mania. We celebrate both with this march by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It’s also Mardi Gras, so we have a lot to celebrate today. 

3/2: Richard Wagner: Pilgrim’s Chorus: 

Today is the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, so today’s march is the Pilgrim’s Chorus from the opera Tannhäuser, the story of a song contest that turns into a disaster for one of the singers.

3/3: John Philip Sousa: The Liberty Bell March

Today’s march might make some listeners think of a giant cartoon foot, and if you think of it, John Philip Sousa’s Liberty Bell March seems an odd choice for a British comedy show, but nevertheless, we will be “pining for the fjords” today. 

3/4: Hector Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust: Rakoczy March

Hector Berlioz was so proud of his arrangement of a Hungarian folk song that when wrote an opera about the German Doctor Faust, he re-located part of the story.

March Mania: March 7-11

3/7: Antonin Dvorak: Festival March

Most of Antonin Dvorak’s music has a distinct Czech “accent”, but when he was commissioned to write a march celebrating the wedding anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth of Austria, he adopted a more international sound. 

3/8: Richard Wagner: Fest March

Last week we heard the slow march from Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser. Today we hear the march that brings the audience into the concert that turns out to be such a disaster for the title character. 

3/9: Sergei Prokofiev: March from The Love for Three Oranges

It’s a strange title, but in Prokofiev’s wacky fairy tale opera, a sad prince finally laughs when he sees a clumsy witch trip over her own feet. She is not amused, and curses him to fall in love with three oranges. The famous march comes when he sets off to find them.  

3/10: Andre Caplet: March for the French Academy of Rome

In 1803, Napoleon moved the French Academy of Rome into a dilapidated villa that had been owned by the Medici family. Within a century it had been restored to its former glory. For that anniversary, French composer Andre Caplet wrote a celebratory march. 

3/11: Johann Strauss, Sr. Radetzky March

Every New Year’s Day the Vienna Philharmonic celebrates with a concert of music from the Strauss family.  The last encore is always the elder Strauss’s Radetzky March, with the audience stamping their feet and clapping along.  That’s our march for today. 

March Mania: March 14-18

3/14: Hector Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique — March to the Scaffold

Early in his career, Hector Berlioz wrote an opera called “The Secret Judges”, but couldn’t get it produced, so he threw out most of the music except for a diabolical march that he later inserted into his famous Symphonie Fantastique.

3/15: Franz Schubert: Three Heroic Marches

Before television, before radio, people had to supply their own entertainment. One way of doing that was for two people at the same piano.  Today we have Three Heroic Marches for four hands on the same piano by Franz Schubert.

3/16: Edvard Grieg: Ceremonial March from Sigurd Jorsalfar

Edvard Grieg wrote incidental music for a play about King Sigurd the Crusader. Today’s march accompanies the part of the play when the king returns to Norway from his trip to Jerusalem.

3/17: Victor Herbert: March of the Toys from Babes in Toyland

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and today’s march was written by a composer born in Dublin, Victor Herbert.  It comes from one of his best-known operettas, Babes in Toyland. Of course it’s the March of the Toys. 

3/18: Dame Ethel Smyth: March of the Women

March is Women’s History Month and today’s march is by composer and suffragist Dame Ethel Smyth, written for the campaign to give women the right to vote. Appropriately, it’s called the March of the Women.

March Mania: March 21-25

3/21:Frederick Delius: The March of Spring

Spring began yesterday morning at 11:33, so today’s march is very appropriate: The March of Spring by English composer Frederick Delius.

3/22: Leroy Anderson: March of the Two Left Feet

Leroy Anderson specialized in writing encores, especially for the Boston Pops. Often his encores were humorous in tone, and that goes for today’s march, “The March of the Two Left Feet”. 

3/23: George Gershwin: Strike up the Band

The Gershwin brothers’ musical Strike up the Band was originally a pretty dark satire. When that flopped, they rewrote it as a laugh-packed comedy and replaced a lot of the songs, but kept the title song, a march that ends the first act in both versions. 

3/24: Sir Edward Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No.5 in C

Between 1901 and 1930 Sir Edward Elgar wrote 5 Pomp and Circumstance Marches.  No.1 is familiar music for graduations, the others are not heard so often, so we will remedy that situation by hearing the last of the group today

3/25: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Procession of the Nobles from Mlada 

If you remember watching Agronsky and Company on PBS, chances are you will know today’s march, “The Procession of the Nobles” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov from his opera Mlada, a detective story where a ghost helps her former fiancee track down her murderer.

March Mania: March 28-31

3/28: Giuseppe Verdi: Grand March from Aida 

Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida is the grandest of “grand operas”, with two ballets and a procession of soldiers and maybe an elephant or two, all against the backdrop of ancient Egypt.  The procession supplies today’s march.

3/29: PDQ Bach: March of the Cute Little Wood Sprites

J.S Bach had twenty-odd children, and the oddest of these was P.D.Q. Bach. Today’s march comes from this…uh…”unique” composer. 

3/30: John Philip Sousa: El Capitan March

John Philips Sousa was not just the “March King”, he was the composer of quite a few operettas in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan. The most successful of these was El Capitan, about an incompetent ruler who disguises himself as a bandit. Of course it includes the famous El Capitan March.

3/31: Sir Arthur Sullivan: The Entrance of the Peers from Iolanthe

In Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical operetta Iolanthe, the supernatural world goes to war against the House of Peers. In today’s march, the Peers parade their privilege and position.