1884: Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture in Eb major

FRIDAY, October 25, 2019

1884: Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture in Eb major, age 44

Tchaikovksy hated this. It’s hard to believe, but he felt like it kept people from hearing things he was proud of, and in fact it is often true that composers come to loathe the things the public loves the most. But to be fair it was probably not well played within his lifetime. He did not include any choral music in his own work, but this version, with chorus, I think is pretty amazing.


  • Brass band: “Open” consisting of “any extra brass instruments” available. In some indoor performances, the part may be played on an organ. Military or marching bands also play this part. Note: the brass band or its substitute is meant to play during the finale only.
  • 1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 1 cor anglais, 2 clarinets in B♭ and 2 bassoons
  • 4 horns , 2 cornets in B♭, 2 trumpets in E♭, 3 trombones (2 tenor, 1 bass) and 1 tuba
  • timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tambourine, triangle, carillon/tubular bells
  • Strings
  • Artillery: one battery of cannon, or even ceremonial field artillery.

The carillon is sometimes replaced with  or recordings of carillons, or even church bells. In the sections that contain cannon shots, actual cannons are sometimes replaced by recorded cannons or played on a piece of staging, usually with a large wooden mallet or sledgehammer as in the Mahler 6th. The bass drum and gong/tam-tam are also regularly used as cannon substitutes or adjuncts in indoor

Popular for 137 years…

At at any rate, the public always has the last word, and this piece has been amazingly popular from the time it was first played, much to the dislike of Tchaikovsky – who nevertheless enjoyed the money it made for him.

3 thoughts on “1884: Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture in Eb major

  1. I seem to have heard the ending with the bells ringing numerous times, but I don’t remember the beginning with that beautiful peaceful music. Is that ending played more often, on different occasions, that it would be so familiar? (but the rest not)

  2. I remember this piece from many dramatic scenes in movies. Each time I hear this I picture men and women on a battlefield fighting for their lives, for their country, for their family, and for their future, and finally the survivors reuniting with friends for and family and contently living their lives.

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