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Marching to the Canon

Marching to the Canon: The Life of Schubert's "Marche militaire"

Scott Messing
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 418
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  • Book Info
    Marching to the Canon
    Book Description:

    Marching to the Canon examines the history of Schubert's Marche militaire no.1 from its beginnings as a modest piano duet published for domestic consumption in 1826 to its ubiquitous presence over a century later. Myriad performances by professionals and amateurs made it Schubert's most recognizable and beloved instrumental work. Its success was due to its chameleon-like ability to cross the still porous borders between canonic and popular repertories. This study of both its reception and impact offers a unique narrative that illuminates the world that enshrined its otherwise humble dimensions. After detailing the composition, publication, and reception of the original march, the book examines the impact of transcriptions and arrangements for solo piano, orchestra, band, and other settings. Contemporary to these versions was its symbolic manipulation during three conflicts involving France and Germany: the Franco-Prussian War and the two world wars. Multiple iterations created a performance life that made deep inroads into dance, literature, and film, and inspired quotations or allusions in other music. The work's creative uses are remarkably diverse, ranging from now obscure individuals to significant figures as varied as Willa Cather, Isadora Duncan, Walt Disney, and Igor Stravinsky. Scott Messing is Charles A. Dana Professor of Music at Alma College, and the author of Neoclassicism in Music and the two volume Schubert in the European Imagination.

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-858-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Chapter One The Original Duet: Composition, Publication, Performance, and Reception
    (pp. 1-20)

    We do not know with certainty exactly when Schubert wrote the threeMarches militaires, D. 733, for piano four hands. The composer’s indefatigable chronicler, Otto Erich Deutsch, assigned a date of ca. 1822.¹ Deutsch posited that, as op. 51, the set was one of eight opus numbers in the possession of the publisher Cappi & Diabelli at the time Schubert broke with the firm over a dispute about fees in April 1823. The composer requested, without apparent success according to Deutsch, that as-yet-unpublished manuscripts be returned to him. Beginning in 1825, professional relations were rekindled to the extent that firm, now...

  7. Chapter Two Arranged for Solo Piano: Carl Tausig and His Progeny
    (pp. 21-55)

    In the four decades following Schubert’s death, although composer-pianists created solo piano transcriptions of some of his keyboard march duets, there was no such interest in the threeMarches militaires. Even so ardent a devotee of Schubert’s music as Liszt conspicuously bypassed the D. 733 set when he wrote four marches for solo piano in the 1840s, instead drawing the material from D. 818, 819, 859, and 886.¹ Although Brahms was a dedicated lover of Schubert’s music, the only identifiable Schubert march that he played in public was his adaptation of one of the twoMarches caractéristiques(both in C...

  8. Chapter Three Transcriptions: Edification and Entertainment
    (pp. 56-86)

    The musical traits of theMarche militaireand the growing stature of its composer attracted listeners to both solo recitals and concerts by orchestras, professional and amateur, and bands, military and civic. Virtuoso pianists and ambitious conductors shared similar aesthetic goals in programming the piece. To be sure, once it entered the cultural bloodstream, Tausig’s solo piano arrangement was bound to enjoy far wider dissemination than transcriptions for large ensembles, due to the more substantial demands of personnel, logistics, and financing that encumbered the maintenance of the latter. The statistics for orchestral and band performances do not come close to...

  9. Chapter Four The Marche militaire at War and Peace
    (pp. 87-107)

    Whether or not theMarche militairewas part of the repertory of German service bands remains a matter of conjecture. The notice of 1846 in theNeue Zeitschrift für Musikaside, a blurb for a subscription concert of the regimental band in Constanz in 1881 lists “Marche milit. f. Orch. v. Schubert,” a shorthand that leaves one uncertain as to whether the music was played by what was sometimes called a military orchestra—that is, an ensemble whose proportions included brass band instruments that were not in the standard symphony orchestra of the period.¹ There is nonetheless one remarkable instance...

  10. Chapter Five Dance: Isadora Duncan and Loie Fuller
    (pp. 108-133)

    The transformation of the imaginedmarche triomphaleto the realMarche militaire, detailed in the previous chapter, took place during the era when the actual piece became Schubert’s most familiar instrumental composition in its original duet version (chapter 1), in its bravura piano arrangement (chapter 2), and in its many ensemble transcriptions (chapter 3). The score’s widespread fame during the fin de siècle is reflected in the fact that, nine years on either side of the turn of the century, the work began to be appropriated in both literature (1891) and dance (1909). We begin with the latter; unlike writers,...

  11. Chapter Six Literature: From Novel to Ephemera
    (pp. 134-161)

    In a study of Schubert’s reception in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I remarked on the meaningfulness of situations in which characters in that period’s fiction performed and listened to the composer’s music.¹ Regardless of the genre—novel, serialized tale, short story, drama, or poem—authors could rely on the public to recognize and understand references to Schubert’s works, whether such occurrences were essential to the narrative or only provided a vivid detail. The readers of this literature were, after all, much the same audience as those who attended concerts or played music in the home. To the...

  12. Chapter Seven Film: Animated Scores and Biedermeier Dreams
    (pp. 162-181)

    As we have seen, theMarche militairefound a home as part of the menu of entertainment on offer at theaters that screened early silent cinema. This practice was international, as indicated by an Australian newspaper item from 1911, which reported that, in between presentations of Empire Pictures at the Perth Town Hall, the audience “vigorously applauded” the score’s performance by an “enchanting mandoliniste” from Sydney.¹ In providing an accompaniment to the films themselves, each venue offered its own performers who were responsible for selecting music that was appropriate to each scene. An advertisement for movie music in 1919 includes...

  13. Chapter Eight Allusion and Quotation: Poulenc and Stravinsky
    (pp. 182-203)

    In a 1923 article about the group of young French composers known asLes Six, the American critic Paul Rosenfeld indicated that one member had appropriated the subject of this study: “This music is at once charming and ill-mannered, gay and bitter, simple and scurrilous. There is much wit in it; many clever musical quotations—[Gustave Charpentier’s] ‘Louise,’ Schubert’s ‘Marche Militaire’; and not a little sarcasm.”¹ Who, specifically, Rosenfeld had in mind is unclear, although in his article he judged Francis Poulenc, Georges Auric, and Darius Milhaud to be the most important members of a group who by that time...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 204-214)

    When Schubert wrote to the publisher Schott in 1828, the final year of his life and two years after the publication of theMarche militaire, he indicated that his latest works were evidence of “my strivings after the highest in art.” He was referring to three operas, a mass, and a symphony—large-scale works whose sublime contents matched their ambitious scale. That same year another publisher, Probst, urged him to continue providing potential customers with a supply of “trifles.”¹ It was understood that composers could move between “levels” of seriousness: Beethoven could tell Breitkopf that his marches were “easy and...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 215-284)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-306)
  17. Index
    (pp. 307-319)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 320-320)