Johann Strauss I: Radetzky March
Premiered in August 1848 in Vienna, Johann Strauss I’s Radetzky March is one of the most recognisable marches ever composed. Dedicated to Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, the march soon became popular among regimented marching soldiers. Strauss was commissioned to composed a work to commemorate Radetzky’s victory at the Battle of Custoza.
The march is celebratory in style, which comes through Strauss’ use of melody and the way the march is orchestrated. There is a sense of reflection in the march, as the main theme was also used in Strauss’ Jubel-Quadrille, as well as it also have a considerable resemblance to Haydn’s Symphony No.100.
Alongside Johann Strauss II’s Blue Danube Waltz, Radetzky March became an unofficial Austrian National Anthem. When the march was first performed in front of the officers, they naturally started clapping and stamping their feet to the music. This became a tradition and is often seen in many concert halls when the march is performed live. The Vienna Philharmonic nearly always uses the march as their jubilant piece at their annual New Year’s Concert.
Radetzky March can be broken up into three main sections, which sees different instruments take over the main theme. Opening with the full force of the orchestra, and ultimately led by the brass, the marching theme comes down in dynamic as the strings and upper winds take the lead.
The piccolo flute sits above the whole ensemble, with the piercing high notes shining through. The orchestra comes together again as the march builds back up. The brass set up the seamless transition into the trio section, which takes on a slightly different, less chaotic character than the opening.
The orchestra then repeats the opening motif and the march begins again. The popular melody sings out throughout the ensemble. Strauss keeps the tempo going with the support of the percussion, in particular the snare drum. The ending is dynamic and packs a punch at the end of the mostly loud and boisterous march.
The themes heard in Johann Strauss I’s Radetzky March are still really popular today, with many orchestras often choosing to perform this work in New Year or Prom-style concerts and events.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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