Ride of the Valkyries is an orchestral piece of classical music, that was composed by Richard Wagner in 1856. My recording is 5 minutes 38 seconds in length.
Ride of the Valkyries is probably Wagner's most famous piece of music, almost certainly in part to its appearance in the film Apocalypse Now. It is widely considered to be horribly overplayed. The Ride was not originally composed to be played on its own. Instead it forms a small part of the opera Die Valkure, which itself is a part of Wagner's famous Ring Cycle.
The inspiration for this music was the norse legend of the Valkyries. Numbering 9 these were daughters of Erda and Wotan. They descended upon battlefields to take away the souls of warriors to Valhalla. Their leader was Brunhilde, and the other 8 were Gerhilde, Helmwige Waltraute, Schwertleite, Ortlinde, Siegrune, Grimgerde and Rossweisse.
This piece is noticably in 3 time, with a moderate tempo, and begins with a swelling mass of strings, before launching into the main theme. Wagner makes good use of the whole orchestra, using it as sections rather than focusing so much on individual instruments.. The main theme involves strong brass parts, with harmony provided by wind and strings. This theme has a strong, martial feel to it; one of warriors riding out to battle, and it is this that makes it so appropriate in Apocalypse Now. When the main them recurs it is further strengthened by use of percusssion.
Aside from the ending there are two subsidiary themes in this piece. The second theme is to be found in the latter halves of the second and fifth minutes. It does not take away from the strength of the main theme, but further bolsters it by providing a quieter counterpart, whilst using much the same istrumentation. The third theme is to be found betweent the middle of the third minute, and the middle of the fourth minute. It features a lot of scales and trills, and while still carrying some of the original feel has a much more bleak core to it.
The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music