Funeral March of a Marionette

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The Funeral March of a Marionette (Marche funèbre d'une marionnette) is a short piece by Charles Gounod. It was originally written for solo piano in 1872 and orchestrated in 1879. It is perhaps best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents.[1]

Background[edit]

While residing in London, England, between 1871 and 1872, Gounod started to write a suite for piano called Suite burlesque. It was a satirical character piece intended to be a parody of the personality of Henry Chorley, a music critic. It greatly amused Gounod's English patron, Georgina Weldon, who described Chorley as having a "thin, sour, high-pitched sopranish voice" and moving like a "stuffed red-haired monkey".[2] Gounod intended to publish the piece with a dedication to Chorley, but the latter died before this was possible. Weldon then invented a new program for the piece, which was re-titled "Funeral March of a Marionette". After completing this piece, Gounod abandoned the rest of the suite.[3] The piece was dedicated to Madame Viguier, a pianist and the wife of Alfred Viguier, the first violin in the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire.

In 1879, he orchestrated the piece with piccolo, flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in D, 2 trumpets in A, 3 trombones, ophicleide, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, and strings.[4]

The work is in the key of D minor with a central section in D major; the time signature is 6/8.[4]

Storyline[edit]

The following storyline underlies the "Funeral March of a Marionette":

  • The Marionette has died in a duel.
  • The funeral procession commences (D minor).
  • A central section (D major) depicts the mourners taking refreshments before returning to the funeral march (D minor).

Additionally, inscriptions are found throughout the score as follows:

  • La Marionnette est cassée!!! (The marionette is broken!!!)
  • Murmure de regrets de la troupe (Murmurs of regret from the troupe)
  • Le Cortège (The procession)
  • Ici plusieurs des principaux personnages de la troupe s'arrêtent pour se rafraîchir (Here many of the principal personages stop for refreshments)
  • Retour à la maison (Return to the house)

Recordings and radio broadcasts[edit]

The work has been recorded many times. One of the earliest recordings was by John Philip Sousa's band in 1903.[5]

The American horror radio program The Witch's Tale, which originally aired from 1931 to 1938, utilized the music in at least one episode, "The Gypsy's Hand", which aired on April 14, 1932.

Use in films and television[edit]

The music was used to accompany at least three early films:

In addition, in The Green Goddess (1930) The Raja (George Arliss) plays a recording of "Funeral March of a Marionette" on a phonograph for his British visitors, and remarks on the macabre quality of the piece.

Alfred Hitchcock had heard the music in the 1927 film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans. In 1955, when choosing the theme music for his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he remembered the effect that "Funeral March of a Marionette" had on him. It was through Hitchcock's program that the music achieved its widest audience, although few people would have been able to identify the composer or title. The series continued for ten years, and the theme music appeared in five versions by as many arrangers: in 1955, 1960, 1962, 1963, and 1964 ‒ the last version being arranged by Bernard Herrmann, who transposed the piece up a third.[7] The "Funeral March of a Marionette" was one of eight compositions that Hitchcock selected to take to a fictional desert island on the 1959 BBC radio program, Desert Island Discs.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Huizenga, Tom (March 5, 2013). "Marches Madness: Puppets and a Funeral". NPR.
  2. ^ Harding, pp. 179–80
  3. ^ enpmusic; retrieved 16 August 2013
  4. ^ a b Marche funèbre d'une marionnette: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  5. ^ archive.org; retrieved 16 August 2013
  6. ^ Welcome Danger on IMDb
  7. ^ Alfred Hitchcock (suspense anthology); retrieved 16 August 2013
  8. ^ BBC; retrieved 16 August 2013

External links[edit]