The Pomp and Circumstance Marches (full title Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches), Op. 39, are a series of six marches for orchestra composed by Sir Edward Elgar.The first four were published between 1901 and 1907, when Elgar was in his forties; the fifth was published in 1930, a few years before his death; and the sixth,compiled posthumously from sketches,was published in 2005–2006.They include some of Elgar’s best-known compositions.
March No. 2 has some interesting variations with the dal segno. The arranger has placed the D.S. as shown in the original score (at bar 3), and the accompanying audio file reflects that position. However, several recordings of orchestral performances have offered three differing ways of performance: 1) as shown, which repeats the full march from the beginning to the ending coda; 2) moving the D.S. to bar 60, thus shortening the repeat by 57 bars; 3) eliminating the D.S. altogether. These options give credence to the notion of flexibility in how the march should be performed. With any choice, it is a delightful display of joy, with the added drama of aggressive percussion effects.
The following remarks are from a colleague, an Elgar scholar and British Band Director Tom Higgins:
“As might be expected with Elgar, each Pomp and Circumstance march is highly individual. No. 2 is the closest Elgar came to writing a regimental quick march. Straightforward in construction, it has a somber atmosphere punctuated by flashes of brilliance.This feature is immediately apparent at the beginning when a two-bar flourish heralds a theme played pianissimo, as if a band were heard from afar. The theme, restless in nature, develops through a steady crescendo to fortissimo, giving the impression that the band has arrived triumphantly at where the listener is standing. A broad second subject follows and a repeat of the first subject leads into the Trio pitched in the tonic major. After the work’s opening bustle, this middle trio section is based on a pleasingly simple tune. If Elgar had it in mind to emulate a regimental march, then this is how many of them were constructed: sincere and traditional melodies were central to their purpose.The greater part of the march is then repeated and concludes with a series of flourishes, culminating in a jubilant fortissimo tonic A scored in octaves.”