Tchaikovsky – Ouverture solennelle 1812

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Dreadful recording. In mono also. The reason I have this is the last work on it: the Russian Easter festival overture. That one doesn’t feature on the link to Spotify, but can be found elsewhere. And do yourself a favour, find a better recording. Anything will do.

The Russian Easter festival overture was known to me because I heard a part of it on a recording I might already have mentioned. The soundtrack of the BBC tv series Cosmos offered me a lot of classical inspiration. But most people will know the 1812 overture better I suppose. Try to find another recording of that one too.

This record is about overtures. A lot can be said about that genre. Originally it was a part of an opera. Not all operas had one, but at one point it became customary to add an introduction to the opera, featuring many of the main melodies, but without voices. The stage was still empty, and the orchestra was playing alone.

Weird things happened. When Rossini had to write an overture to the Barber of Seville, it was years after he composed the work itself. He did a few operas in between, and had no idea anymore what was in the Barber. So he just wrote some stuff he was working on at the time, and added it as an introduction. As a result, perhaps the most famous overture of them all doesn’t have any of the material for the opera that is actually part of.

And then there are overtures to works that were never there. They were not even meant to be. Like this one. The overture just became a classification, just like “symphony” or “string quartet”. This is the time the overtures on this record are from. In that sense they are no different from “capriccio”: a short orchestral piece.

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