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1812 Overture (tr Patterson)

From Wind Repertory Project
Peter I Tchaikovsky

Pytor Ilyich Tschaikowsky (tr. Donald Patterson)


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This work bears the designation Overture Solennelle, Opus 49.


General Info

Year: 1882 /
Duration:
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: U.S. Marine Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


Instrumentation

(Needed, please join the WRP if you can help.)


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

It's safe to say that almost everyone knows the flashier aspects of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture: cannons, church bells, brass bands. The solemn overture is undoubtedly one of the most surefire crowd pleasers to resound through the concert all (although it was originally intended for outdoor performances).

Tchaikovsky was at the height of his career when he was commissioned in 1880 to compose a feature piece for performance at the All-Russian Exhibition of arts and Crafts in 1882. His first four symphonies, the First Piano Concerto and several celebrated orchestral showpieces had firmly established his international reputation as the current grand master if Russian composers. For the exhibition, he wrote a tribute to one of the most triumphal moments in Russian history, the defeat of Napoleon's invading army near the beginning of the century.

Most of Tchaikovsky's music is at least somewhat programmatic, but in no other piece is the program quite so transparent. The overture begins with a Novgorod peasant tune, played first by the strings, then augmented by woodwinds, representing the simple purity of Mother Russian. One can almost imagine the land itself as a slumbering giant, secure in its own strength. Suddenly, the serene atmosphere is broken by a stormy passage heralding the incipient war. It was as if a messenger burst through the doors into a church service announcing "We've been invaded."

A single snare drum signals the march of Napoleon's army onto the scene, announced by the horns. The Russian Imperial Army defends its territory in a fierce clash, by the invader prevails as bits of the French national anthem Le Marseillaise periodically rises above the clamor. The Russians retreat.

In quiet retrospect, the people mourn the desecration of their homeland by invaders and prepare to rise against the French. Battle is resumed, but once again Le Marseillaise is heard, as the French prevail, and once again the people mourn. Yet a third time the Russian troops attack, and this time the land itself – the sleeping giant – rises up to join with its people and throw off the invaders' yoke. (Coincidentally, this is historically accurate, for it was the Russian winter that actually defeated Napoleon's far superior military forces.)

The victorious third conflict leads to a celebration unprecedented in orchestral music: a salute of cannons, pealing of church bells, the Czarist national anthem, along with the solemn melody that opened the work. Tchaikovsky even throws in snatches of the march that originally heralded the arrival of the French, but Le Marseillaise is nowhere to be heard. Mother Russian has prevailed, and joy is everywhere.

- Program Note by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Ensemble concert program, 6 December 2015


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 26 May 2019
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 28 May 2017


Works for Winds by this Composer


Resources

None discovered thus far.