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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Nationalist Era > "1812 Overture". Op. 49 (Tchaikovsky)


"1812 Overture". Op. 49

Pytor Il'yich Tchaikovsky
(1840-93)



According to one of Tchaikovsky’s biographers, Nicholas Rubinstein in the spring of 1880 suggested to the composer that he should write a pièce d’occasion for the consecration of the Temple of Christ in Moscow. "In addition to the church festivity Rubinstein wished to organize a musical one which should embody the history of the building of this temple, that is to say, the events of the year 1812. Tchaikovsky’s fantasia or overture was to be performed in the public square before the cathedral by a colossal orchestra, the big drums to be replaced by salvos of artillery." The composition was finished in 1880, but no account is left of the proposed startling performance, which reminds one of the Gilmore Jubilee achievements. The overture opens with the subject of the old Russian Hymn, "God, preserve Thy people," parts of it being developed in woodwinds, violas, and cellos alternately. The material is worked up to a climax in full orchestra, followed by a more quiet passage. The main section of the overture follows, representing the battle of Borodino, in which the Russian National Hymn intermingles with the "Marseillaise" amid peals of artillery. The movement reaches a deafening uproar, above which the Russian Hymn rises triumphant. A Coda, with the hymn in the basses and peals of bells, closes this unique and somewhat startling work.

The "Overture Triomphale" by Tchaikovsky, one of his earlier works, foreshadows his "1812" overture by reason of his use of the Danish National Hymn, much in the same manner as he has treated the "Marseillaise" in the "1812."





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