Imperial March (1893)


First Performance: Imperial Institute, 10 May 1893
Piano arr. published: Chappell, 1893.

In 1887, Sullivan composed an Ode for the laying of the foundation stone of the Imperial Institute, located in London’s Kensington district. Six years later, Sullivan’s composed this march to celebrate completion of the same edifice. The work is full of lush symphonic color redolent of an empire at its apex. On the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company’s 1976 recording of Utopia Limited, the Imperial March serves as a most appropriate introduction to the opera, which has no formal overture. However, the massive forces the work requires — it premiered with an orchestra of 93 players — prevent it from serving as a Utopia overture in the theater. Arthur Jacobs speaks of the work slightingly, but I find it a brilliant piece for the occasion.

Not one to waste a good composition, Sullivan would mine the Imperial March again four years later, in his ballet Victoria and Merrie England, in which it appears as a detached movement.


  1. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; Royston Nash, conductor; 1976.
    This recording is positioned as an “overture” to the D’Oyly Carte’s 1976 Utopia Limited recording.

  2. RTE Sinfonietta; Andrew Penny, conductor; 1993.
    This recording is part of Andrew Penny’s excellent recording of the entire Victoria and Merrie England ballet.

  3. BBC Concert Orchestra; Owain Arwel Hughes, conductor; 1993.