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Marches Madness: Freshly Squeezed Oranges In 4/4 Time

It's Marches Madness! Throughout this month, we're posting some of our favorite marches — from the concert hall, opera stage and parade ground. Got one we should hear? Played any yourself? Let us know in the comments section.

Everyone loves a fresh, juicy orange. But what if you were forced to fall in love ... with three of them? That's just one of the zany story lines crisscrossing within Prokofiev's opera The Love for Three Oranges.

In this absurdist comedy — with choruses of Comicals, Tragicals, Empty-heads and Eccentrics — a prince is cursed to search the world for his beloved "Three Oranges." The music, at turns confectionary and acerbic, is among the most brilliant Prokofiev ever wrote. But one tune stands out.

To assist a scene change, Prokofiev composed a jaunty march that lasts all of 90 seconds. In its sparkling orchestration, where percussion and brass shine, the little march builds, rising in pitch for a slam-dunk cadence.

Prokofiev probably could not have predicted in 1919 that the pint-sized march he'd written would become one of his most recognized pieces. It helped that he later included it as a part of his orchestral suite from the opera, and that violinist Jascha Heifetz arranged it as a classy encore. Even Star Wars composer John Williams drew inspiration when it came time for the "Parade of the Ewoks."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.