Fun facts of the day about Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture

I just heard Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on the radio, which inspired today’s series of fun facts: The 1812 Overture commemorates the Russian defeat of Napoleon’s army in 1812 (it has nothing to do with the War of 1812 — stop being so America-centric). Tchaikovsky includes a few bars of both La Marseillaise (the French national anthem at the time he wrote the overture in 1880, but not in 1812) and God Save the Tsar (the Russian national anthem in 1880, but not in 1812). During the Communist era, Soviet orchestras rewrote the end of the 1812 Overture to avoid playing the Tsarist anthem. Also, God Save the Tsar is set to the same melody as Hail Pennsylvania, Penn’s fight song. And to be fair, Penn’s not alone in its use of European nationalist music — Yale’s alma mater, Bright College Years, uses the same melody as Die Wacht am Rhein, a (pre-Nazi) German patriotic song, which you can hear in both All Quiet on the Western Front (the movie, not the book) and Casablanca.

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