Everything you need to know about the “1812 Overture”

For us, it’s just not summer without an explosive finale at the Deer Valley® Music Festival. And what could be more exciting and brilliant than Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture? Every year, we perform this exciting piece, and it never fails to wow audiences!

Not sure which piece we’re talking about? You’ve probably heard some of the most famous parts immortalized in movies like V for Vendetta or commercials that need an extra dose of excitement. Even groups like The Melodica Men have parodied it:

Are you headed up to see it this year? Here’s everything you need to know about this iconic work:

The history of the piece:

Despite what the name might make you think, this work was actually composed in 1880 and first performed in 1882. Also contrary to what you might think, this work has nothing to do with the War of 1812 between the United States and the British. (Although it has become a patriotic favorite!)

This work was actually commissioned to commemorate Russia’s defense against Napoleon’s armies in 1812. If you listen closely, you can actually hear the themes of the French national anthem (the Marseillaise) as well as some traditional Russian folk songs and hymns.

What makes this piece particularly exciting is that it has a strong narrative. You can almost see the battle waging between the French and Russian armies. Tchaikovsky even employed real cannons and arranged for bells to ring from neighboring churches during the first performance.

With all the excitement and fanfare of this piece, who wouldn’t love it? Answer: Tchaikovsky himself—he hated it. For one, he was never big on huge displays of patriotism. He once even called it “very loud” and “noisy” and thought it lacked artistic merit. To be completely fair, HE was the one who chose to use cannons.

What to expect at the concert:

We pull out all the stops when we perform the 1812 Overture! In addition to knowing what to expect at the venue (which you can read about here), you might be interested in some of the following facts about our Deer Valley performances.

We usually pair the 1812 Overture with other Tchaikovsky masterworks. If you love Tchaikovsky’s ballets, piano concertos, and other symphonic pieces, you’ll love this program. We also love to add in traditional, well-loved patriotic pieces to keep things interesting. The program changes from year to year, so you’ll have to look the repertoire up here.

We’ll also have real live cannons! The Cannoneers of the Wasatch join us every year to set off cannons. What could possibly be better than that, you ask? They will be in costumes based on uniforms from the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.

One thing that makes this year’s performance extra special is we’ll be performing with the Utah Opera Chorus. Part of the 1812 Overture is based off a traditional hymn which is still sung in Russian Orthodox churches. Although it’s not part of the original score, we’ll be singing a version of it in English.

Are you ready for an explosive end to the season? Get your tickets to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture here

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