About the Piece

Instrumentation: Full Orchestra: 3(2+1picc)222-4230, Timpani +2 percussion, strings
Duration: around 13 min

Program Note

Composed in 1909, Coleridge-Taylor was commissioned by great English actor and theatre impresario Herbert Beerbohm Tree to composer incidental music for His Majesty’s Theatre London production of the Shakespeare play.

This suite comprises five movements from the incidental musicThe composer put together the suite soon after the 1912 production, but sadly it’s not often performed today. The incidental music is operatic and grand in style, with both funeral and military marches, along with lyrical, intimate moments of haunting melodies, racing dances and a lilting ‘Children’s Intermezzo’ that evokes calm and innocence.

The movements are:

  1. Dance
  2. Children’s Intermezzo
  3. Funeral March
  4. The Willow Song
  5. Military March

Conductor’s Perspective

All five movements are quite short, around 2-3 minute each. They can be performed all together as one suite, or performed separately – in which case, the Dance and the Military March could make a great concert opener.

The individual parts are not too challenging, and the phrasal structure (pretty much always 4 or 8 bars) and harmonic scheme are both rather straightforward. There is a clarinet solo in Children’s Intermezzo which is not too hard. The Cornet/Trumpet solo in The Willow Song, however, is much harder, but can be played by a solo violin or cello.

About the Composer

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London, the son of a West African father and English mother. Early in his life, his father, a doctor, unable to make a success in Britain, returned to Sierra Leone. The boy showed talent on the violin from the age of five, and by 1890, with generous backing from a Presbyterian choirmaster, entered the Royal College of Music, studying with Charles Villiers Stanford. Elgar called him “far and away the cleverest fellow going among the younger men”. The Hiawatha trilogy made his name and performances were so plentiful that with Mendelssohn’s Elijah it held second place only to Messiah in the hearts of choral societies the length of the country. He died in Croydon at the age of only 37 before his full potential as a composer could be fulfilled. [from Good Music Publishing]

Performance Materials

Performance materials, including score and parts, are available from Luck’s Music HERE.

Score Perusal:


A commercial recording performed by the RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Adrian Leaper on Youtube – Note the Funeral March (movement 3) was not included in this recording.

Chineke! Orchestra and Sphinx Organization has a recording of the full suite, but it was a part of the Music Across the Ocean project, a transatlantic lockdown concert collaboration.