Vaughan Williams wrote a fair amount of brass-band music, although most of it is neglected. It is not known exactly for what occasion this piece was written, though, like The Golden Vanity March from the same year, it was probably intended for performance at the Abinger Pageant (1934). The work retreated from whatever brief attention it received into obscurity and remained unpublished in the composer's lifetime. While it is generally light and colorful, it features some music of substance, owing in part to Vaughan Williams' deft instrumentation.
The score requires a huge array of band instruments, including five cornets, a flugel horn, two baritone saxophones, and a euphonium. In addition, the music conveys a wide variety of moods and employs both well-known and little-known traditional tunes, including the Agincourt Song, Magali, the French battle song Réveillez vous Piccars, and The Earl of Oxford's March. Tempos tend to alternate Andante with Allegro, though the closing big march carries a Moderato alla marcia marking. From its somber, fanfare-like opening and the dark subdued music that follows to its closing march, the Henry V Overture divulges both color and a subtle sense for atmosphere. For band music fanciers this will have strong appeal.