January 2013

March No. 1 in D Major from Marches Militaires, Op. 51, D. 733

by Franz Schubert

Franz Schubert (pronounced SHOO-bert) was born in Vienna, Austria in 1797. Like Mozart, Schubert died at a young age (31). Unlike Mozart, Schubert wasn't particularly well-known. His music may have died with him, were it not for some later composers who really liked his music (most notably, Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Felix Mendelssohn).

Schubert's father wasn't a famous musician, but was able to give Franz some basic lessons at an early age. Franz played viola with the family's quartet, featuring his brothers Ferdinand and Ignaz on violin and his father on cello. In fact, some of Franz's earliest compositions were string quartets written specifically for this group to perform.

In 1818, Franz had taken a job as a music teacher for the two daughters of a Hungarian Count (Johann Karl Esterházy). Historians aren't sure of the exact time, but it's thought that during this period, he wrote three military marches (Marches Militaires). These were written for four-hands. That means that it requires two pianists to perform: one staying largely on the lower half of the keyboard, and the other staying largely on the upper half. They were written to teach, more than to perform (much like Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier). These three marches would be later published in 1826.

The second and third marches are rarely performed now, but the first march (in D Major) is very well-known. It has since been arranged for orchestra and military band, among other groups.

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

This piece finds its way into cartoons frequently, so I technically may have heard it as part of a Looney Tunes (or other early cartoon) first. Officially, my first exposure would have been playing Summer Games II on the Commodore 64 (in the mid-1980s). When you compete in the Equestrian, the music that begins the game is this march.

I remember thinking the piece was cool, and I started noticing it appearing elsewhere. When I was on my mission, I'd picked up a cassette with a collection of classical marches called "Weekend Marches", and it included March Militaire No. 1 (performed by an orchestra).


And so here is March No. 1 in D Major from Marches Militaires. Enjoy!

March No. 1 in D Major from Marches Militaires, Op. 51, D. 733 by Franz Schubert (5:28)

For those interested, this is the CD version of the cassette that I mentioned previously ("Weekend Marches"). This is Hans Knappertsbusch conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jon's Interpretation:

This piece is a simple march, and yet, it's extraordinarly memorable. The main melodies can stay in your head for a long time. It's a very majestic and regal sounding march. It can easily bring a smile on an otherwise unhappy day.

Extra Credit:

Here is the piano four-hands sheet music for the March:

Piano Score for March No. 1 in D Major from Marches Militaires, Op. 51, D. 733 by Franz Schubert

And, because I can, here's the music from the Equestrian opening from Summer Games II on the Commodore 64. Enjoy!