History and usage
The first version of this march-song was probably created around 1730 by one or more anonymous composers, although tradition says that it was the favourite march of Francis Rákóczi II. That early version, the Rákóczi-nóta (Rákóczi Song), a setting of a Kuruc poem, was a lament complaining about the misfortune of the Magyars and the Habsburg oppression. The song called back Francis Rákóczi II to save his people. It was very popular in the 18th century but in the 19th century the more refined Rákóczi March became prevalent. It became a folksong with more than 20 versions and was sung even after the 1848 revolution. It gave inspiration to the poets Sándor Petőfi, Ferenc Kölcsey and Kálmán Thaly.
The "Rákóczi March" was played by Gypsy violinist János Bihari between 1809–1820, and the music is sometimes misattributed to him. Hector Berlioz included the music in his composition La damnation de Faust. Between 1823–1871 Franz Liszt wrote a number of arrangements, including his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15, based on the theme. Pianist Vladimir Horowitz composed a variation on the "Rákóczi March" with elements of both the Liszt and Berlioz versions, which greatly expands on the bravura and flash of the Liszt composition.
Today the tune is heard usually as an instrumental, without the lyrics. The Berlioz version has become a popular folk-music selection in Hungary, especially for weddings. The March is played at state and military celebrations and is the official inspection march of the Hungarian Defence Forces. The tune was used for decades as the morning signal of Kossuth Rádió at the beginning of the daily broadcast. The march gave its name to a 1933 Austrian-Hungarian feature film—Rakoczy-Marsch—starring Gustav Fröhlich (who also directed), Camilla Horn, Leopold Kramer and others. The March is also featured prominently in the French historical drama La Grande Vadrouille.
- Rakoczy March (Liszt, Franz): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 (Liszt, Franz): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
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