1812 Overture

If you go to an outdoor July 4th  concert with fireworks chances are you will hear a rendition of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49, commonly known as the 1812 Overture.  It was written in  1880 to commemorate Russia’s defense of the home land against Napoleon’s invading forces in 1812.  Tchaikovsky began work on the piece on October 12, 1880, and had it completed  6 weeks later.  The overture is best known for its climactic cannon fire, ringing chimes, and brass finale.  While this piece has become an American July 4th patriotic “Pops” concert standard it is only obliquely related to  U.S.  history.  The North American War of 1812  diverted  British forces, freeing Napoleon to attack Russia.

Tchaikovsky himself came to America in May of 1891 as the guest of honor for the opening of Andrew Carnegie’s new Music Hall in NYC.  He conducted at least 2 of his works during the 5 day music festival   While one of the websites I used for this post states that the 1812 Overture was one of those works the Carnegie Hall website itself does not mention that being the case.   It says Tchaikovsky conducted his Marche Solennelle on Opening Night and his Piano Concerto No. 1 several days later.

Complete work, or if you just want the “wow” finale jump to 11:30 in the video.

For expanded info on the 1812 Overture you may want to visit this TutorGig page.

2 thoughts on “1812 Overture

  1. My high school marching band and I were playing this finale, while everybody else was doing 25 or 6 to 4! What a bummer — I felt cheated out of a lot of high school fun! It is lovely, though, isn’t it!

  2. As a teenager, I loved to play the 1812 Overture – loud – with the windows rolled down in my VW. I used to play the oboe, and this piece of music could make my lips fall off by the time we finished playing it 🙂

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