Born: May, 22 1833, Leipzig, Germany
Duration: 7 minutes
On the same day that his father, King Maximilian II died, on March 10th 1864, Ludwig II was crowned as his successor, aged 18. Several years previously, in 1861, he had heard Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” and “Lohengrin”, which was the beginning of an almost “addictive” affinity to his music. Immediately after acceding to the throne, Ludwig II supplied Wagner with 170,000 florins to enable suitable performances of his operas in Munich. A first personal meeting between Ludwig and Wagner took place in early May, 1864.
Wagner wrote his “Homage March” as a gift and greeting for Ludwig on the occasion of his birthday on August 25th 1864. A first performance in the presence of the King did not take place, however, until October 5th in Munich, after a series of circumstances including the sudden death of the leader of the Munich Military Band, Peter Streck (1797-1864) two days before the birthday cancelled the performance. According to one obituary, Streck appears to have suffered a heart attack under pressure of the preparations for the concert, with the copying of parts immediately before the performance, the organisation of rehearsals and the journey to Hohenschwangau with a total of 80 musicians, and the enormous musical demands made by Wagner.
The “Homage March” bears Wagner’s typical signature. He himself writes that he had composed something “from Lohengrin and Tannhäuser and perhaps something new”. The piece is a formal work of genius, unusually lush in sound and instrumentation, but appears on the whole a little too routine. The performance does not seem to have made a lasting impression on Ludwig II either, as no royal comments of any consequence on the work have remained on record. Despite these limitations, the “Homage March”, as an original work by Wagner for wind ensemble, cannot be disregarded in our concert programmes. The wind instrumentation originally required by Wagner is interesting, as it would no longer be realisable nowadays. In addition to two piccolos in Db he also calls for 4 flutes, also in Db, 1 Ab, 2 Eb and 14 Bb clarinets, 2 trumpets in Bb alto, 4 in F, 2 in Eb and 4 bass trumpets, 3 flugelhorns, 3 alto horns, 4 tenor horns / baritones and 6 bass tubas. [There are several arrangements for modern wind ensemble/concert band available today. ]
- Program note from Rundel. Follow Link for full article
Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Mallory Thompson, conductor