What is the relationship between March music and Classical music? To the non-musician they seem to be interchangeable or at least largely overlapping.

But I find March songs much more enjoyable and lively than pure, centuries-old classical songs that school music teachers "approve" of as part of their teaching. Is March music a subcategory of classical music? Are they both brass/orchestral music, but unrelated categories? Oh, I should add, I mean western classical music, not say classical music from far east Asian countries for example.

Here is a list of my favourite songs that seem to come under at least one of the categories of Classical, March or Brass, but I think I need to subdivide them (e.g. in my mp3 collection) depending on the answer to this question.

  • Bizet - Les Toreadors
  • Mendelssohn - Wedding March
  • Handel - Alla Hornpipe From Water Music
  • Handel - Aleluya (El Mesas).mp3
  • O Fortuna
  • Mozart - 4th Symphony (Wolfgang Amadeus)
  • Boston Pops - Washington Post March
  • Vangelis - Chariots of Fire
  • Land of Hope and Glory
  • Handel - Zadok the Priest
  • Beethoven - Ode to Joy
  • Rule Britannia!
  • John Williams - Back To The Future
  • John Williams - Indiana Jones Theme
  • John Williams - Starwars theme
  • I guess "O fortuna" refers to Orffs Carmina Burana, I have some doubts, that really the 4th symphony by Mozart is intended, more likely is 41 "Jupiter".
    – guidot
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 12:49
  • 2
    Lucky you! As a survivor of high-school marching band, I can barely tolerate any Sousa, Fillmore, et. al. tunes! :-( . But anyway, you should feel free to classify music into whichever category (or multiple categories) you prefer. You're the one who'll be listening :-) Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


Marches, or music in "march tempo" or "march-like" music is a recognized trope within classical music. As you already know from your list, not all classical pieces that use the march trope are labeled "March."

Your list seems to indicate you like the following things:

  1. Actual military-band-style marches written into classical operas or theater music for dramatic effect. Other famous ones: Mendelssohn, March of the Priests from Athalie; Verdi, Triumphal March from Aida; Meyerbeer, Coronation March from Le prophete.

  2. Classical symphonic movements or pieces that use the "march" trope for one or more of the themes. If you like this, try Mahler symphonies (#3, 1st movement, you have to wait for it but it's worth it!). Other famous march-tropes in classical symphonic music: Dukas, The Sorcerer's Apprentice; Liszt, Les preludes (the end); Elgar's "Enigma" Variations (again, the end, kind of like "Land of Hope and Glory" on steroids). If you want a crazy version of this, with multiple marches going on at the same time, try Charles Ives, "Putnam's Camp" from Three Places in New England. It includes a couple of actual military marches from the Revolutionary War, too!

  3. Pieces that use marching band instruments and sounds, and have a steady drumming beat (like Chariots of Fire, which has the heavy beat and rhythms of a march, although it's all on synthesizer). You could try Ravel's Bolero, which is not a march, but has a steady drumbeat all the way through.

Happy listening!

  • Great info Robert, thanks. Again I'd have to come back to this as a long term reference as I slowly learn more about the genre. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 22:00

According to your examples march music is orthogonal to classical music.

There are classical music marches, but for many (if not most) brass instrumentation would not be first choice (funeral marches?). Your classical examples consists mostly of non-marches (e. g. all Handel examples, Ode to joy). There are genres of classical music completely inappropriate for brass like chamber music (string quartet) and I would consider these as the majority.

Arrangements for woodwinds and brass also have a long tradition in classical music (ca. since 1770 see "Harmoniemusik"), primarily due to transportability of instruments and since smaller ensembles are easier to form. Your examples point a little in the "most bang for the buck" direction, which may not be satisfied by that.

And finally: not everything involving brass/marches is classical; some people would argue, that cinema soundtracks also do not belong to the classical category.

  • Thanks for the reply. I'll have to read it multiple times to fully digest (regrettably I have minimal training in music). Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 18:19

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