Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Recently I was riding in the car with my son, and his son. My grandson is in 4th grade. He reads about military campaigns with the enthusiasm of a West Point plebe. We played Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" through the car's speakers. We turned them up to high volume. All over America this spring bands and orchestras will be working up a presentation of this great piece to play on our own 4th of July celebration. The vollies of canon fire, ringing church bells and brass fanfare are a sure way to excite and please a patriotic crowd. Many assume the piece has something to do with our defeat of the British in the War of 1812. It doesn't. It was commissioned by Tsar Alexander I in 1880 to commemorate the stunning defeat of Napoleon and his half a million battle hardened French forces as they laid siege to Moscow in the winter of 1812. The victory came at great cost and would not have been possible without Russians from small villages and towns rising to aid their army. Bitter cold weather finished off the French. The temperature dropped to -30 degrees. Their canon froze to the ground. In defeat and retreat, the French froze to death. Only 10,000 made it home to France. My grandson knew the story line. He narrated as the music built to the climactic defeat. He pumped his fists and cheered. We had a grand time. Here is the music. Enjoy it yourself. Listen to the French advancing with their national anthem, La Marseillaise. Hear the Russian folk music weaving through the battles. In defeat, La Marseillaise is broken up by the Russian anthem God Save the Tsar and the bells and whistles of the final measures.