Editor's note: This article, and the music pages attached thereto, were first published in the Orphée Catalogue of 1993.

To hear a MIDI file of this remarkable composition by Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti, click on the frame below.
This file  was created by Robert Coldwell.

La Marche de Wittgenstein

(Updated May 4th 1999 to correct the misprints pointed out on the CGH list by Stanley Yates and Angelo Gilardino)

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Wittgenstein March Fantaisie by Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti


by Matanya Ophee

As a major cultural center from the beginning of the nineteenth century, the city of St. Petersburg was a focal point of Russian cultural life, and a magnet which drew to it musicians from all over Europe. Giuseppe Sarti, Giovanni Paisiello, Carlo Cannobio, Adrien Boieldieu, John Field, Daniel Steibelt are some of the many who made their way to Russia, benefitting from the hunger expressed by the Russian nobility and the emerging middle class for Western European theater, literature, art and music. According to information which recently came to light, even a giant like J.S Bach, applied at one time for a position in Russia, most probably in St. Petersburg. (Note 1) Obviously, Bach never went to Russia. We can only imagine how his music might have developed, and how Russian music would have metamorphosed, if he did.

Guitarists were not far behind the many other performers and singers who accompanied the leading composers to Russia. Ignaz von Held from Czechoslovakia, Carlo Cannobio from Italy, Jean-Baptiste Hainglaise who may have been an Englishman, (Note 2) Jean-Baptiste Phillis from France, and other International wayfarers such as Fernando Sor, Antoine de Lhoyer, Michele Giuliani and Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti.

A preliminary biography of this Italian master was published by Simon Wynberg, in collaboration with Marc van de Cruys. (Note 3) For his part, Mr. Van de Cruys is presently working on a full featured biography with an extensive thematic catalogue which will be published in due course. So far, the details of Ferranti’s life in Russia in the Wynberg book, were supplied by myself and by Mr. Van de Cruys. Briefly, while living in Paris in 1820, Ferranti secured a position as a librarian to Count Miatlev, an important politician and land-owner, and travelled with him to Russia.

His employment must have given him ample time for music making. The first public performance of Zani De Ferranti in St. Petersburg, took place in a benefit concert of the double-bass player Domenico dall’Occa on December 21st, 1821. The pre-concert advertisement in the Sankt Peterburgskie Vedomosti, included the following:

. . . Mr. Zani de Ferranti, an Italian artist, for the first time since his arrival from Paris, will play on the French guitar a large fantasia with variations on the famous March of Count Wittgenstein . . . (Note 4)

The Wittgenstein March was popular in St. Petersburg at the early part ofthe nineteenth century. Its nationalistic-militaristic fervor was similar to that of patriotic songs such as La Sentinelle, Partant pour la Syrie, and similar fare popular in the West. The song was composed by Daniil Nikitich Kashin (1767-1841), an important composer, folk-song collector, pianist and orchestra conductor, a pupil of Sarti.

The march was part of a cycle of patriotic songs written by Kashin in celebration of the victory over Napoleon in the war of 1812. It may have been performed in St. Petersburg shortly after the war, but the first record of its public performance was in a “Patriotic Concert” given by Kashin in Moscow, on March 8th, 1814. Among other works by the composer, the newspaper advertisement also announced the performance of a “Voennaia Pesn Zashchitniki Petrova Grada’ v chest grafa Vitgenshteina. (Military song, The Defenders of Peter’s Town: in honor of Count Wittgenstein (Note 5),” Count Piotr Khristianovich Wittgenstein was born in Pereyaslavl’ in 1768 and died in Lvov in 1842. His father was the Count Christian von Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Prussian general in service of the Czar. Count Wittgenstein, himself a general in the Russian army, was the commander of the forces entrusted with the defense of the capital, St. Petersburg, during Napoleon’s ill-fated Russian campaign in 1812. The success of this defense earned him a great deal of admiration from the public, and helped to secure a long lasting military and social career. One of his last surviving relatives was Elena De Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Russian emigre violinist in the US. She was the founder of the Elena De Sayn quartet, with whom Sophocles Papas played chamber music in Washington DC in the 1920-30s. In later years she became an important impresario in the Washington area. From her personal papers now preserved at the Library of Congress, it is clear that it was she who had organized Andrés Segovia’s concerts there in 1936-37. (note 6)

As customary at the time, a popular song was always a good theme to write variations on. Andrei Sychra (1773-1850) wrote a set a variations on the same tune, published in his Sobranie raznogo roda lekhkikh Pies’ (Collection of light pieces of various types). (Note 7) The title page of Sychra’s theme and variations clearly identifies the theme as the Wittgenstein March by D.N. Kashin. The title, here reproduced in facsimile reads as follows:

Marsh' soch: Gos[podinom] Kashinym. Petaia Gos[podinom]: Zlovym / Zashchitnika Petrograda Velyt’ nam slavit’ pravdy glas’. [March Composed by Mr. Kashin, sung by mr. Zlov / The defender of Petrograd Command Us To Glorify The Voice Of Truth.]

kashin.jpg (241566 bytes)

Obviously, the theme is identical to that used by Ferranti. The song was still popular in St. Petersburg in 1821, when Zani de Ferranti arrived there. As a vehicle for a debut concert in this artistically sophisticated society, virtuoso variations on a popular theme was bound to do the trick. Shortly after, or perhaps even concurrent with his performance, Zani de Ferranti had his composition engraved and printed. The title page reads as follows:

FANTAISIE / avec variations / pour la Guitare Française / dédiée et présentée à Sa Majésté l’Imperatrice régnante / ELISABETH ALEXIEWNA / par / Son très humble et très obeisant Serviteur / M.A. Zani de Ferranti / Lith. chez Fr. Satzenhoven / Gravé par L. de Peter. (Note 8)

The title page, as seen above, only lists the names of the engraver and the printer. I have not been able to ascertain if these craftsmen were residents of St. Petersburg. The quality of the engraving, done in lithography, is on a much higher technical level than what was customary at the time for Russian publishers. Perhaps the work was executed on order elsewhere, in Leipzig, for example, and was not meant to be sold to the general public, but indeed as a homage to the reigning Empress. The fact that the only known copy was found in her personal library, supports Simon Wynberg’s assertion that Ferranti was well placed at the heart of Russian rule. The work is a typical set of variations written with one goal in mind: demonstrating to the audience the player’s full command of the instrument, the sort of Pièce de Resistance which guarantees a standing ovation. For the St. Petersburg audience of 1821, the recapitulation of the popular theme at the end of the fire-works, was a clever device that must have worked like a charm. Count Wittgenstein is now a mere footnote in the history books, and contemporary audiences do not know him, or Kashin’s song about him. Like similar bravoura pieces such as Giuliani’s Grand Ouverture and Rossiniane, or Bobrowicz’s Variations on a Theme by Mozart, this work of Marco Aurelio Zani de Ferranti can work its magic on your audience today. Get your technique in shape, your orchestral bearing in fine repair and cast your virtuosity about. They’ll love you!


1. Tatiana Baranova, Zapadnoevropeiskaia instruntental’naia muzyka XVII-XVIII vekov v Leningradskikh rukopisnykh izdaniakh. (Western-European Instrumental Music of the 17th-18th centuries in manuscript editions in Leningrad), paper read at the 11th Inter-republic national conference on Old Music and Contemporaneity, Shuhai, Lithuania, March, 1985. I am indebted to Margarita Mazo for drawing my attention to this paper.Return to text

2. This statement, which I repeated elsewhere, is based on the lyrics (in French) of a song Hainglaise published in his Journal of 1798, which begins with the words: “Je suis natif de l’Anglettere...” At the time I first wrote this in 1993, I was unable to trace the surname Hainglaise in any Francophone sources. A recent search on the WWW (a luxury not yet available to me in 1993) revealed this surname as belonging to a quite well-known French soccer player. With a Giuliani as the Mayor of New York City, a Cherubini as the chief librarian of a major US university and with a popular Italian restaurant in Columbus, OH called Moretti, why not a French footballist called Hainglaise? Return to text

3. Chanterelle. Heidelberg: 1989, N° ECH-914, p. 7.Return to text

4. Sankt Peterburgskie Vedomosti 1821, Nº 100. Quoted by Boris Volman, Gitara v Rossii. Leningrad: 1961, p. 63.Return to text

5. Moskovskie Vedosmosti, 1814, March 4th, N° 464. Quoted in: A.M. Sokolova, “Kontsertnaia Zhizn' (concert life).” Istoria Russkoi Muzyki, (History of Russian Music) (Iurii Keldysh et al, ed.). Moscow: 1986. Vol. 4. (1800-1825) p. 262. Return to text

6. She paid him $500.- per concert. Return to text

7. 1813, N° 2. Copy in my collection. Return to text

8. Copy is in the Russian Institute of Art History in St. Petersburg, Collection of Elizavet Alexeevna, call N° 489. I am indebted to the Institute for making a copy of this edition available to me and for their permission to publish this music. Return to text

Copyright © 1993 by Editions Orphée, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2008