program notes by composition > O > Overture “1812” (Ouverture Solennelle)

Overture “1812” (Ouverture Solennelle)

Peter I. Tschaikowsky/arr. by Mayhew L. Lake

Overture “1812” (Ouverture Solennelle) Tschaikowsky was commissioned to compose a ceremonial overture to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Russia's victory over Napoleon in 1812. The commission was to mark the 1882 Moscow Exhibition, and specifically the consecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior which was built to give thanks for the Russian victory during the Napoleonic Wars. Although the composer himself found the piece "very loud and noisy", the premiere was an immediate success and its popularity has never waned.

In this country, the Boston Pops orchestra performed the overture at a Fourth of July concert in 1974. With booming cannons, ringing church bells, patriotic sing- alongs and a grand fireworks finale, the revival was a huge success. “1812” has become a traditional part of holiday celebrations at countless concerts ever since.

Pyotr Ilyich Tschaikowsky (1840-1893) began his adult life as a law clerk in the Russian government. Disillusioned by an “unjust promotion” over his head, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music. His compositions reflect the emotional extremes of his complicated, unconventional lifestyle. He is beloved for his many ballets, symphonic poems, symphonies, operas, songs, piano music, and chamber works.

Last updated on April 4, 2012 by Palatine Concert Band