Listening to Beethoven #137 – March in B flat major WoO 29 ‘Grenadiermarsch’

Austrian line infantry, the whitecoats, of the Napoleonic Wars 1805-1815 (artist unknown)

March in B flat major WoO 29 ‘Grenadiermarsch’ for wind sextet (1797-98, Beethoven aged 27)

Dedication unknown
Duration 1’30”

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

Beethoven has a surprisingly large arsenal of marches in his output – and this is the first we encounter. Little is known about the Grenadiermarsch, though its instrumentation for wind sextet means it could be played on the move.

Its nature suggests a military origin or use…but as Barry Cooper writes in the New Complete Beethoven Edition, ‘its original function is unclear’. The composer must have held it in high regard, as he also made a version for piano.

Thoughts

The wind sextet are ideally suited for this brief but perky march. When the wind ensemble hold the chords for longer they sound a bit like the squeeze box of an accordion – the sort of sound you might hear on a street corner.

Recordings used and Spotify links

Members of the Berliner Philharmoniker (Karl Leister, Peter Geisler (clarinets), Gerd Seifert, Manfred Klier (bassoons), Günter Piesk, Henning Trogmil (horns) (Deutsche Grammophon)

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1798 Wranitzky Grande Sinfonie caracteristique in C minor Op.31

Next up March for Wind Sextet in B-flat major (‘Grenadiermarsch’) – piano version

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