Laughing at Tchaikovsky

1812 Overture

A funny thing happened to me today while I was driving.  As usual I was listening to music.  And really, its not as if I listen to classical a lot.  I’m all over the dial.  But as it happens I was listening to classical and when I turned on the radio the 1812 Overture came on.  First I thought is it Tchaikovksy’s birthday or something?  You ask why does it have to be his birthday or the 4th of July for that work to be played?  It doesn’t.  I’m just saying that’s what came to mind initially.

As I was listening I zoned in acutely to every aspect of the work.  I normally don’t bother to waste energy going in-depth to a degree that is unnatural to typical musicians.  On this occasion, don’t ask me why, but I did.  Maybe it was because I thought it could be his birthday and out of respect I would do him that honor.   Or maybe it was the nostalgia of past 4th of July celebrations that brought things into focus.

It then occurred to me while I was listening that Tchaikovsky might have created the work specifically with the ending (the last 3 minutes) in mind.  I enjoyed the play between themes throughout the first 12 minutes, but I felt a strong nudge, a sort of “hang on its coming,” from the composer throughout.  As the time for fireworks struck, I said to myself, you really went over the top, Tchaikovsky. The work is so great yet so self-important.  I’ve heard it a million times, but when the victory part struck, I laughed.  Yeah you really went over the top, Tchaikovsky!  Not many could get away with something so outrageous (not to mention the employment of cannons).

I ended my moment with the overture by pondering, who needs fireworks?  Likely they are getting in the way of the real show.

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3 thoughts on “Laughing at Tchaikovsky

  1. Okay, so maybe I’m too influenceable but anyway… just brought the Overture out of the shadows here. I’ll give it a listen (or two… or ten) right now! Can’t resist not listening some piece of music after reading about it… I wonder why.

  2. Actually, Tchaik didn’t think a lot of the piece while he was writing it, if you look at his letters. (He thought rather more of “Iolanta” which I think he was writing at the time.)

    I’ve always been irritated by this piece, mainly because iI think the last movement of Ives’ 2nd would be ten times better for Fourth of July fireworks — particularly the end; my classical music mystery novel (it’s on my website –plugplug) has the conductor leading it while terrified that a murderer will shoot him at an outdoors concert.

  3. Yes that’s very true. He complained of it not having beauty and that it was merely loud. Although it was somewhat of a trend to badmouth your own works at the time, I believe he disliked many of his works (his piano solo works as well).

    I like that concept for a novel!

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