This is yet another band work by Vaughan Williams, a composer whose style adapted well to almost any medium, save for the keyboard. Here, he fashioned a work of neo-Classical character and wit, auguring the offbeat world of his 1954 Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra, and, to a lesser extent, the exotic realm of his Eighth Symphony (1953-1955; rev. 1958). Much has been made by certain musicologists of the Toccata Marziale's supposed advanced compositional features, but in fact they are rather typical of the composer in their thematic, harmonic and instrumental characteristics -- Vaughan Williams would have been the first to admit he blazed no theoretical trails or established no school.
The piece is jolly and somewhat Stravinskian in character, featuring lean scoring, vibrant colors, and deft wit. The music augurs the scherzo movements from several of the composer's later symphonies, including the Fifth and Ninth. Any similarity to style of Stravinsky, as noted above, is probably coincidental, since that Russian composer's neo-Classical manner is far removed from the normally Romantic and often gruff style of Vaughan Williams. The Toccata Marziale, marked Allegro maestoso, lasts about four minutes and is full of color and energy. It is not an important work in the composer's œuvre, but is nevertheless an attractive, well-crafted diversion.