Commando March (ed Collinsworth)

From Wind Repertory Project
Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber (ed. R. Anderson Collinsworth)

General Info

Year: 1943 / 2009
Duration: c. 3:40
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $75.00   |   Score Only (print) - $10.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III (4-5 players), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Triangle
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone


In Parts & Score:

  • Bassoon I-II, m.62, beat 2: Triplet should be slurred

Program Notes

Barber wrote his Commando March shortly after being enlisted in the United States Army during the Second World War. The work was completed in February 1943 and was premiered on May 23 of that year by the Army Air Force Tactical Training Command Band in Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, most likely with the composer conducting. The critic Fredric V. Grunfeld writing in High Fidelity magazine described the march as "an old-fashioned quickstep sporting a crew cut," and the work received many performances in the final years of the war. Barber made a transcription of the march for full orchestra, which was premiered by Serge Koussevitzky leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Boston on October 29, 1943.

- Program Note by Russ Girsberger

Samuel Barber established himself as an accomplished composer early in his career by winning the prestigious American Prix de Rome while studying at the Curtis Institute. Born in West Chester, Penn., Barber enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1943. His compositional approach may be best described in the words of famed conductor Arturo Toscanini: "... simple and beautiful.” Such qualities are exemplified in his most famous work, Adagio for Strings.

While on active duty, Barber composed notable pieces for the war effort including his second symphony, the Flight Symphony, as well as his only composition for wind band, Commando March. The work was premiered on May 23, 1943, by the Army Air Forces Tactical Training Command Band in Convention Hall, Atlantic City, N.J. The work received many performances in the final years of the war, solidifying its place as a classic centerpiece in wind band literature.

- Program Note by Technical Sgts. David Balandrin and Ricky Parrell

Commando March holds the distinction of being Samuel Barber’s only work for winds, and it was premiered in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1943. Barber spent a short time in a branch of the armed forces that became an Air Force unit and was commissioned to write this music. Barber’s Second Symphony, written for the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942, made use of an electronic instrument that imitated radio signals. Despite his commander’s directive to compose a march in quarter-tones to symbolize what the commander saw as the progressive nature of the air unit, Barber’s ingenuity took a different tack in this impressive concert march.

- Program Note by Brian Casey and David Holsinger

Samuel Barber is one of the great American composers of the 20th century. The Commando March is utterly original with a great march theme and a weirdly orchestrated, gesture-developing middle section that makes one forget that the piece is supposed to be a march.

- Program Note by David Branter for the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble concert program, 16 July 2015

Commando March (1943) was not only Barber’s first work for wind band, but his first work subsequent to entering the Army. There is no extant documentation regarding a formal commission or a direct military order; rather it appears Barber was inspired to compose for the military bands he must have come in contact with during his basic training. In spite of its large instrumentation, Barber often referred to the work in letters as his “little march.” Barber at one time described the music as representing “a new kind of soldier, one who did not march in straight lines” but “struck in stealth with speed, disappearing as quickly as he came.”

The premiere performance was given by the Army Air Forces Technical Command Training Band, Warrant Officer Robert L. Landers conductor, on May 23, 1943 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. As was the case with many of Barber’s earlier works, Commando March was immediately well-received by audiences. Following its premiere, Barber himself led the Goldman Band in several performances in July 1943. He even adapted the work for orchestra at the request of Serge Koussevitzky, who led this score’s first performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on October 29, 1943.

- Program Note from University of North Texas University Band concert program, 2 October 2019


State Ratings

  • Iowa: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Barber, S.; Collinsworth, R. (2009). Commando March [score]. Schirmer: [New York].
  • Heyman, Barbara B. (1992). Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 213–215.
  • Perusal score
  • Smith, Norman E. (1986). March Music Notes. Lake Charles, La.: Program Note Press, pp. 25.