On This Date – Artillery Added to Orchestras

Pyotr Tchaikovsky was a talented and innovative composer who looked at the orchestra talent list and said, and I quote, “Hmm, we have strings and woodwinds and brass and percussion. I will add artillery.” And so cannons found their way onto stage when he premiered his 1812 Overture on August 20, 1882.

It has long been a popular composition even among people who are not classical music fans. Telarc made the first digital recording of the piece (though originally pressed in analog onto vinyl) with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. It was long the gold standard to gauge qualities of a hi-fi system but came with a warning that the recorded cannon shots could blow out your speakers, so handle with care.

The 1812 Overture is the go-to choice for fireworks shows, so is played frequently. A shame the copyright has lapsed or Mr. Tchaikovsky would be making a pretty penny (or ruble actually).

A performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

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