Funeral March

Album: Story of Chopin In words and Music (1839)

Songfacts®:

  • Chopin's Funeral March is part of the third movement of his "Piano Sonata No. 2 In B Flat Minor." The Polish composer wrote this piece in 1837, though he composed the rest of the sonata in 1839 at Nohant near Châteauroux in France. The English composer Sir Edward Elgar transcribed it for full orchestra in 1933 and its first performance was at his own memorial concert the following year. Words were also added at some stage to the tune, for a popular, if macabre, playground ditty ("Pray for the dead and the dead will pray for you!").
  • German composer and critic Robert Schumann, a contemporary of Chopin, said he heard "cannon­concealed amid blossoms" in the textures of the Sonata.
  • The "funeral march" has been played on numerous occasions at actual funerals. It was performed at the graveside during Chopin's own burial at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris in 1849 and was also used at the state funeral of John F. Kennedy and those of several Soviet leaders, including Leonid Brezhnev.
  • The alternating ostinato bass on "Change Your Mind", a 14 minute epic by Neil Young from his 1994 album Sleep With Angels was borrowed from this piece.
  • The "funeral march" has become well known in popular culture, especially in video games where it's often used when the player's character dies. The most famous use of the song in a movie is the classic 1944 Frank Capra comedy thriller Arsenic And Old Lace when Teddy gets Mr. Hoskins.

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