Although Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was written to include cannons firing and cathedral bells, synchronising them with an orchestra proved all but impossible. It wasn’t until 1954 that composer Antal Doráti mixed a studio recording with cannons and bells, finally playing it as intended.

The 1812 Overture: the hit that Tchaikovsky hated

Though he loathed it, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture won him fans the world over and made him a household name.

In 1962, a Don Draper-like advertising executive decided to market the oaty goodness of an up-and-coming brand of breakfast cereal by detonating bowls of it from a cannon in time to the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

When Arthur Fielder led the Boston Pops through the same piece in 1974, during a televised 4 July concert, the 1812 Overture was elevated from advertising prop to full-on national anthem, one still performed today to mark American Independence Day.

Woody Allen co-opted it for the soundtrack of his 1971 screwball comedy, Bananas. It has been referenced in The Simpsonsand in 1967, British comedian Charl… Continue Reading (7 minute read)

13 thoughts on “Although Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was written to include cannons firing and cathedral bells, synchronising them with an orchestra proved all but impossible. It wasn’t until 1954 that composer Antal Doráti mixed a studio recording with cannons and bells, finally playing it as intended.”

  1. TeacherOfFew

    The Amarillo Symphony fired shotgun blanks into trash cans – works beautifully.

  2. silviazbitch

    I remember seeing Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops on the Esplanade along the Charles River on a 4th of July forty something years ago. He looked and dressed like John Philip Sousa, so The Stars and Stripes Forever was pretty cool, but the 1812 Overture was the highlight of the evening. Real cannons and what sounded like every church bell in the city. Freaking awesome. That was a special night.

  3. 7thSparro

    it is GLORIOUS!!

    I make my own bread, and use the 1812 Overature as my timing …. the first set of cannon is around the 10 minute mark

  4. Gemmabeta

    Tchaikovsky no.

    TCHAIKOVSKY YES,

    TCHAIKOVSKY ALWAYS YES.

  5. hamzah8

    [Link](https://youtu.be/QUpuAvQQrC0) for those interested. I’m not a classical music enthusiast but this must have been fascinating to experience in-person. The climatic roars of the canons are stunning.

  6. d-o-z-o

    Seems very doable these days though. I’ve seen it performed live multiple times by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra using the artillery from the NZ army to great effect.

  7. justfriendshappens

    The Telarc recording had real canons in it and I build a stereo around playing this particular piece of music. I had about 1400W in my living room.

  8. eyebrowshampoo

    We had a tradition of performing this at the end of the year in my high school concert band and we got the military to bring canons to shoot blanks for the song.

    We always had it marked in the music and knew exactly when it would happen, but my senior year they accidentally shot one off six measures early and half the band jumped out of our seats and the audience screamed. It was fun.

  9. StarlessTrooper2112

    68 years apart from the composition and the event. It would be like if someone today wrote an overture about the Korean War.

  10. swedishhungover

    My brothers dog did not like the canons in the end. Dog Went like wtf is going on and became confused, ears up, barking even at low volume level. Had to stop playing it..

  11. pimpenainteasy

    1812 Overture is also famous for blowing speakers. It’s a hell of a dynamic test of your speaker’s excursion abilities. At a lot of consumer audio shows they won’t allow you to play 1812 because it has the potential to destroy equipment.

  12. FuschiaFeather

    Tchaikovsky was ahead of his time…by a lot

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