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Thu March 7, 2013
Marches Madness: Off With His Head!
Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 8:27 am
It's Marches Madness! Throughout this month, we're posting some of our favorite marches — from the concert hall, opera stage and parade ground. Got one we should hear? Played any yourself? Let us know in the comments section.
The symphony is a shocking confessional essay in sound, documenting the composer's feverish emotions and obsessive pursuit of his beloved. When the piece premiered in 1830, some felt it was dangerous. It still packs a wallop today.
By the time we get to the movement called "Marche au supplice" (March to the Scaffold), our protagonist, hallucinating on opium, imagines he has murdered his beloved and witnesses his own execution. He's marched through a noisy crowd to the guillotine. All his romantic thoughts from the previous movements turn monstrous as the full orchestra roils — timpani pound, brass snarl and bassoons grunt like feral beasts. At the final moment, love music floats in softly — a wisp of memory brutally cut off by a swift guillotine blow from the entire orchestra. The onlookers, in the form of a brass fanfare, yell hooray!
Enjoy the analytical play-by-play in this performance by Leonard Bernstein and the Orchestre National de France.