The Best Funeral Marches for State Funerals

A funeral march is a slow, stately piece of music, usually in a minor key and in double or quadruple time, which mimics the feel and rhythm of a funeral procession. Designed to be used as part of a real procession, early funeral marches were simple in character, accompanied by a steady beat on a large drum.

Since then the genre has evolved in terms of harmonic and rhythmic complexity, with many funeral marches forming part of a large-scale work written for performance in the concert hall. But these too are often found at funerals. Here are some of the most famous examples.

Mendelssohn’s funeral march

Mendelssohn wrote this piece in May 1836 for the funeral of his friend, the German composer Norbert Burgmüller who, earlier that month, had been found drowned in a bathtub – probably from an epileptic fit. Written for wind ensemble, it is a grandiose piece which reaches its apogee.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 – Marcia funebre: Adagio assai

Moments of sunshine and hope mingle with intense solemnity in the second movement of the Heroic, which features a majestic melody, juxtaposed with imitation drum rolls in the strings. Inspired by the great funeral marches composed for the great holidays during the French Revolution, this piece is one of the Beethoventhe most imposing musical statements.

Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 – Funeral March

Composed at least two years before the rest of the work, the third movement of ChopinPiano Sonata No. 2 is one of the composer’s most popular works. With its intensely elegiac atmosphere, it became the go-to piece of music to accompany the subject of death and was performed at many funerals, including those of John F. Kennedy, Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, as well as Chopin himself. .

Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 – Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen

Inspired by a woodcut by Moritz von Schwind in which forest animals lead a funeral procession in honor of a fallen hunter, MahlerThe funeral march of is intended as a parody – but desperately sad. We hear a solemn march based on a minor version of the popular round ‘Frère Jacques’. Then, without warning, the mood changes, and Mahler uses cymbal, bass drum, oboe, clarinets and a duo of trumpets to produce the sound of a small klezmer group, before returning, with the same suddenness, to a mood of lamentation. All very typical of the composer who juxtaposed comedy and tragedy to shockingly brutal effect.

Brahms – Ein deutsches Requiem

Perhaps inspired by the death of his mother in 1865, BrahmsThe great choral work of is one of the grandest and most solemn works in the canon. Its second movement, in particular, centers on the heavy rhythms of a funeral march, with the chorus proclaiming the inevitability of man’s fate, ‘Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras’ (Behold, all flesh is like flesh). ‘grass).

Elgar’s Symphony No. 2 – Larghetto

This piece was dedicated to Edward VII, after whose death it was written. But many also believe that it is more personal to Elgar, as he had lost his close friends August Johannes Jaeger and Alfred Edward Rodewald during his time working on the symphony. Beginning with a dreamlike introduction, it descends into an outpouring of grief, complete with slow drumbeats and heavy brass chords. The atmosphere lightens up for a moment, with an episode of almost bucolic tranquility, before the music takes on an elegiac character that continues to intensify.

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