1812 Overture (Highlights)

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The late Arthur Fiedler made the 1812 Overture an U. S. 4th of July (Independence Day) tradition by performing it on Boston’s Esplanade in 1974, complete with artillery. The Boston Pops concert was televised, so millions more saw and heard Tchaikovsky’s overture, perhaps not knowing it depicted Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s French army, not the U. S. victory over Britain. At any rate orchestras around the U. S. added the 1812 Overture to their 1975 Independence Day programs and have kept it there ever since.

Tchaikovsky disparaged the work as "very loud and noisy…but lacking artistic merit." While it certainly is loud, I must disagree with the composer’s assessment. Except for the too-long descending scale passage, this is effective, clear program music. I have cut the descending scale passage by about half without losing continuity.

This version contains the opening chorale and skips forward to the French anthem sequence (rehearsal N in my full version, rehearsal A here). If your audience is "just here for the fireworks," you might find this short version useful.

Score ID
Year of composition
Year of arrangement
Difficult (Grades 7+)
5 minutes
Concert band / wind band
Classical music

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