Radetzky March, Op. 228, is a march composed by Johann Strauss Sr. and dedicated to Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz. First performed on 31 August 1848 in Vienna, it soon became quite popular among regimented marching soldiers. It has been remarked that its tone is more celebratory than martial; Strauss was commissioned to write the piece to commemorate Radetzky's victory at the Battle of Custoza.
Strauss had already used the famous theme in his Jubel-Quadrille, Op. 130; the upbeat bears considerable resemblance to the second theme from the Allegro in Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 100 composed in 1794. The striking rhythmic pattern--three anapaests, one iamb--has since then been popularised by numerous parody versions.
For the trio, Strauss used an older folk melody called Alter Tanz aus Wien or Tinerl-Lied (Tinerl was a popular Viennese songstress of the day) which was originally in 3/4 time. When Radetzky came back to Vienna after winning the battle of Custoza (1848), his soldiers were singing the then-popular song. Allegedly Strauss heard this singing and incorporated the melody, converted to 2/4 time, into the Radetzky March.
Along with the Blue Danube waltz by Johann Strauss Jr., the piece became an unofficial Austrian national anthem. In 1932 Joseph Roth published his novel Radetzky March, chronicling the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Up to today, the theme is used in numerous promotional jingles and at major sport events, in particular at football matches of the Austrian national team.
When it was first played in front of Austrian officers, they spontaneously clapped and stamped their feet when they heard the chorus. This tradition, with quiet rhythmic clapping on the first iteration of the melody, followed by thunderous clapping on the second, is kept alive today by audience members who know the custom when the march is played in classical music venues in an orchestral version prepared by Leopold Weninger (1879-1940). Conductors take great delight in conducting the audience, as much as the orchestra, with great gusto. It is always played as the last piece at the New Year's Concert (Neujahrskonzert) of the Vienna Philharmonic. In 2001, under conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, the orchestra performed both the original and the convert version. The Philharmonics did not play the Radetzky March on 1 January 2005, because of overwhelming losses due to the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean a few days before.
Since 1896, this has been the official presentation march of the Chilean Army's Military School of the Liberator Bernardo O'Higgins. The 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards of the United Kingdom adopted the Radetzky March as its regimental quick march. The Sri Lanka Armoured Corps, whose practices and traditions are based on those of the 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards, also use the Radetzky March as its regimental quick march.
In Serbia the piece had a negative reception due to its status as the unofficial anthem of the Austro-Hungarian military. Traditionally, the dislike towards the piece was shown by not clapping during the composition and receiving it in silence. While this has lessened recently, the antipathy towards the piece stemmed from the crimes against civilians committed by Austro-Hungarian Army during the incursion in 1914 and the occupation 1915-1918. The antipathy is stronger in Vojvodina, a former part of Austria-Hungary, where Serbs faced internment camps during World War One (also see List of concentration and internment camps#Austria-Hungary). The case is also not helped by the fact that Radetzky was an adjunct of Ernst Gideon von Laudon during the Siege of Belgrade (1789) and the subsequent period of occupation (see Habsburg-occupied Serbia (1788-92). This period led to a great disappointment in the prospect of Serbian liberation and unification under Habsburg rule, even with committed service in the Free Corps and the Habsburg armies.
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The Radetzky March consists of three main parts:
Jeroen H.C. Tempelman, "On the Radetzky March", Vienna Music, no. 99 (Summer 2000), pp. 12-13