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Bonaparte Crossing the Grand Saint-Bernard Pass, 20 May 1800


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Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

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1812 Overture

You’ve heard it on the Fourth of July with canons and fireworks. Tchaikovsky worked on his famous overture in the fall 1880 on commission to commemorate Russia’s defense against Napoleon’s invading armies. Organizers planned to have it performed in Moscow with the chimes of a new cathedral and cannons fired from an electric switch panel to match the music, but this proved a bit too complicated.  The overture was premiered in a tent next to the unfinished cathedral. Tchaikovsky reportedly told a friend (with a dull lack of enthusiasm) that he found it "very loud and noisy."