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Tonight I’m playing in a concert that is themed around Napoleon.

The first piece is the 1812 overture by Tchaikovsky. As I mentioned in a previous post, we are doing the version with chorus, and the prayer at the beginning in Russian is quite beautiful.

Tchaikovsky was commissioned to compose the piece to commemorate Russia’s defense of Moscow against Napoleon’s advancing army at the Battle of Borodino in 1812.

Following that is Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon, a string quintet with narrator that the principals are performing. There were 2 reasons for the composition – the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Schoenberg heard President Roosevelt’s “day of infamy” radio address; and in January 1942 he received a commission from the League of Composers for a short chamber work.

The text is by Lord Byron; it mirrored Schoenberg’s support for the fight against Hitler.

It’s a complicated piece to put together, taking many hours of rehearsal; However it is an incredibly powerful piece of music – I’m speaking as someone who has just experienced it for the first time.

The concert is finishing with Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the Eroica. Beethoven wrote the piece with Napoleon in mind, and at one point was going to dedicate it to him. It’s said that when Napoleon declared himself Emperor Beethoven’s admiration was lost and he tore up the page with the dedication.

Oh.. And we do have cannons for the end of the 1812. I’m hoping I’m not
going to jump every time they go off!