»  The Radio Derb Music — A Note

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For our first few months on the air, Radio Derb used a random selection of music clips for intros, with U.S. military bands predominating. Then a reader alerted me to the existence of Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, which I confess I had never heard of up to that point. Since April 20th, 2005 I have been using brief clips (brief enough, I hope, to keep me within the Fair Use Doctrine in copyright law) from the Derbyshire Marches as intro.

The marches were originally scored for wind and percussion, but the clips I use are from recordings made in July 1985 by organist Peter Gould playing the main organ of Derby Cathedral.

There is some sheet music (for piano) for the March in C here.

Haydn made two trips to England, 1791-2 and 1794-5. (Note that Haydn, born March 31st 1732, was almost 60 when he set out on that first trip.) Both were huge successes, and his services were in great demand at high fees.

One of the commissions Haydn took on his second visit was to write two marches for the newly formed Derbyshire Cavalry Regiment. (Derbyshire is the name of an English county.)

The composition of these pieces has an anecdote attached, told in Rodney Winther's Annotated Guide to Wind Chamber Music and reproduced below.


These two marches were composed two years after the March for the Prince of Wales [i.e. in 1795] and were commissioned by the Sheriff of Derbyshire, Sir Henry Harpur, Bart. Karl Haas tells an oft-quoted story of Haydn and these two marches: Haydn was to be paid 50 guineas for composing two marches and had two weeks in which to complete the task. "The marches were written. When the officer came, Haydn sat down at the piano and played through the first one in E♭. The officer listened impassively. 'He does not like it,' thought Haydn. The performance ended. 'Ancor una volta!' The composer, not knowing what could be wrong, played the march through again with redoubled vigour. Occasionally he stole a glance at the other's face, seeking some trace of approval. In vain! At the end the officer rose, and Haydn, inwardly agitated, thought he did not even want to hear the second march. But the officer took out fifty guineas and handed them to the astonished composer. Still without saying a word, he picked up the first march and was about to leave when Haydn said, 'but you have not heard the second march!' 'No,' replied the Englishman, 'as it could not possibly be better than the first one. Good-bye. Tomorrow I sail for America.'"

Winther adds:

These are very simple marches, both in design and in challenge. They do, however, represent music of the time by one of the most important composers in music history. As works to be performed in the light of history, they are priceless, and would be wonderful companion pieces to Beethoven on a concert involving the history of the march.