Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Point of Caution on the 200th Anniversary of the Beginning of the War of 1812

June 18 of this year, just days away, will be the 200th anniversary of the start of the what is commonly called The War of 1812, also knows as the Anglo-American war which was fought for three years been the United States of America and the British Empire.

Now, I admit, I'm a little sloppy on my 19th century history, so just in case you find yourself in a historical trivia discussion around the water cooler might I offer some assistance to avoid a historical blunder.

If you're like me, when I hear "1812" I think of two phrases.

  • The War of 1812
  • The Overture of 1812
And I must admit, for most of my life, I thought that the Overture of 1812 was about the War of 1812.

I find the mistake reasonable since with it's bombastic themes, incredible build up, and the sound of cannons, The Overture of 1812 has become synonymous with 4th of July firework finales.

Yet, here's the reality, for anyone out there who's ever wonder why a Russian (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky) would write such a fantastic American patriotic tune.

The Overture of 1812 (formally known as The Year 1812, Festival Overture in E flat major, Op. 49) is a reference to another military event in 1812 - the Battle of Borodino found September 7, 1812 in Borodino, Russia. This battle was a Russian defense against the Napoleon's invasion of Russia during the French invasion of Russia. The Battle of Borodino is created as the bloodiest day in all Napoleonic wars, resulting in an estimated 70,000 casualties. 

When the Overture of 1812 debuted on August 20, 1882 in Moscow, I'm sure Tchaikovsky would not have  thought it would become part of Americana, and despite that fact, just don't play the Overture of 1812 in the office or any other bicentennial celebration, lest you might be corrected and feel silly. 

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