Hermann L Blankenburg

From Wind Repertory Project
Hermann L. Blankenburg


Hermann Ludwig Blankenburg (14 November 1876, Thamsbrück, Germany - 15 May 1956, Wesel, Germany) was a German composer of military marches.

Blankenburg was the only son of three children of Johann Heinrich and Ernestine Friederike Koch Blankenburg. He was born with the middle name Louis but changed it to Ludwig later in life perhaps as a connection to Beethoven. Raised on a sheep farm in Thamsbrücke, he was expected to someday manage the farm. However, he showed a propensity for music starting with performing on the piccolo - a favorite instrument his entire life. His family agreed on his studying music as long as he promised to serve in the army for twelve years.

Blankenburg taught himself to play various instruments including bassoon, tuba, and violin and he conducted his school orchestra at the age of ten. He served actively in the military for two years 1896-1898, performing tuba in the band of the 6th Field Artillery Regiment in Breslau. After that his only service was prior to and during the early years of World War I in reserve bands. In 1913 he performed tuba in Field Artillery Regiment No. 43 in Wesel until 1915 when he got a medical discharge. He remained in Wesel for the rest of his life.

Blankenburg played in and conducted community bands as well as performing in the orchestras in Dortmund, Wuppertal and Duisburg. He also worked as a bricklayer and a policeman for a short time.

While still in his twenties, he had become respected as both a musician and a conductor, but he achieved international fame with the publication of Abscheid der Gladiatoren in 1906. This march, originally entitled Deutschlands Fursten (Germany’s Princes), was submitted in a contest sponsored by the publishing firm of Hawkes and Son in London and was selected from over 500 entries. The name was changed to Abscheid der Gladiatoren (A Gladiator’s Farewell), and it was quickly adopted as a favorite by British army bands. Because of the success of the march, Hawkes published other Blankenburg marches.

Although Blankenburg claimed to have composed over 1, 000 marches, most are unknown today. Unfortunately, much of his total output was lost in the devastation of World War II when German publishing firms and copyright offices were destroyed.

One of his marches bears the title 1001, subtitled In Alter Freundshaft (In Old Friendship). Newspaper reports of concerts given to mark the composer’s 73rd and 75th birthdays repeat the claim that he wrote over 1,000 marches. When he was 73 years of age, the total was stated to be “1, 222, of which 450 are frequently played.” When 75, it was “definitely 1,280.” However, after much research, the highest opus number which has come to light is 1,072 (the march Die Treue Siege, published in 1936). The lowest is 9 (Fliegerhelden Marsch).

Extensive study of old German music catalogs indicates that no one kept an accurate record of his opus numbers, because certain numbers are duplicated by different publishers. There are also large gaps in the sequences. For example, no marches have been found bearing opus numbers between 291-440 or between 451-513, whereas all the numbers from 800-846 are accounted for by one publisher. He had no fewer than thirty publishers. One, Westfalia, appears to have been his own company. This firm published several marches bearing low opus numbers or no opus numbers at all.

It is the considered opinion of students of Blankenburg that approximately 120 marches were published for band and that approximately 150 more were published for piano or orchestra. It should be noted that during the last years of his life there was no German army; consequently there would have been a very small market for his or other German marches.

It is evident that the majority of his marches, if he really did compose them, were never published. It is said that in his later life he would write simple outlines for marches and send them off to publishers who would arrange them for publication. Most of these later marches were arranged for orchestra only and, in some cases, for piano only. The existing published editions seem to bear out this theory.

The type of march in which Blankenburg excelled was one requiring a highly competent euphonium section, since the countermelodies for that instrument are prominent and often lie in the upper register. Also, the piccolo and clarinet obligatos, difficult woodwind parts, and demanding cornet parts are challenging to even the best of bands.

Works for Winds