1812 Overture

The 1812 Overture is an orchestral work by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky commemorating the victory of Russia in the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. The overture debuted in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow on August 20, 1882.

The overture is a piece of program music. It opens with the somber tones of a Russian Church chant, recalling the declaration of war announced at Church services in Russia, and is then immediately followed by a solemn chant for Russian success in the war. This announcement and public reaction was captured in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

A theme of marching armies follows, carried out by the horns. The French national anthem La Marseillaise reflects the French victories in the war and the capture of Moscow in September 1812. The Russian folk dance theme commemorates the battle beating back Napoleon. The retreat from Moscow late in October 1812 is reflected by a diminuendo. The firing of cannon reflects the military advances toward the French borders. With the end of the conflict over, we return to the peal of bells and fireworks for the victory and the liberation of Russia from French occupation. Below the cannon and the horns, we hear the Russian national anthem, God Save the Tsar. The Russian anthem is a counterpoint to the French anthem that was heard earlier.

In Soviet times, Tchaikovsky's work had to be edited for performances: the God Save The Tsar anthem tune in the overture had to be replaced with e.g. Glory from Glinka's opera Ivan Susanin.

The actual cannon blasts prescribed by Tchaikovsky are usually rendered using a bass drum. Less frequently attaca (Strongly accented) snare drum diminuendos can be heard. Cannon fire has been used in some cases, however, and was first laid down on a recording by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s. Subsequent similar recordings have been made by other groups, exploiting the advances in audio technology.

In the mid-1960s, Igor Buketoff wrote a transcription of the "1812 Overture" with chorus. The opening segment was sung by voices as a sung chant instead of being played by cellos and violas, the children's chorus was added to the flute and English horn, and the full chorus was mixed into the winds--the entire orchestra, in fact--in the closing segment.de:Ouvertre 1812 es:Obertura 1812 ja:序曲1812年 zh:1812序曲


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