Notes and Editorial Reviews
is another reincarnation of that most famous of all Mercury records, now marketed by Decca. Nostalgically, the CD booklet cover carries the original LP design with that booming canon illustrated, and
1812 writ large. The recording was one of the most successful classical LPs of all time, selling some two million copies in the analog era. Today, probably, such a recording project would be unimaginable due not only to cost considerations, but also to questioning by the health and safety police.
Dorati delivers exciting performances of all three works and the digitally re-mastered sound is truly spectacular.
style="font-style:italic">1812, a bronze canon made in Douay, France, in 1775 was used, courtesy of the Museum at U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and the bells of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon, the Riverside Church in New York City. This carillon has 74 bells and includes the largest and heaviest tuned bass bell in the world.
Authentic period ordnance, again courtesy of the West Point Museum, was also used in the Beethoven work. For the stereo recording, French canon were placed on the left and English canon on the right, just as the composer indicated, and a howitzer added center, all supplemented by musket volleys. The 188 canon shots and 25 musket volleys are all clearly indicated in Beethoven’s score.
Beethoven’s piece celebrates Wellington’s victory of 1813 near the Basque city of Vitoria. This Beethoven oddity was written for a giant mechanical orchestral machine that could play cavalry marches—its inventor having endeared himself to Beethoven by also inventing an ear trumpet and lending the composer money. The score was later adapted for orchestra. Beethoven clearly had fun writing the music, which included a drooping minor-key version of the French war song to indicate their defeat and a glorious fugal treatment of
God Save the King.
Capriccio italien, composed by Tchaikovsky holidaying in Rome in 1880, is scored for a very full orchestra. Dorati realizes all its color and
joie de vivre in this vibrant performance.
Deems Taylor, in his separate commentaries that augment the quite full booklet notes, colorfully describes the history and usage of the armaments and the recording processes for
Wellington’s Victory, recalling, for instance, that for the special effects for Beethoven’s battle, the Mercury microphones were suspended on trees linked to the recording truck located a safe distance away, and that work was often interrupted by the sounds of falling leaves, fleeting breezes, and passing aircraft. It also appears that roads were blocked and ambulances were on standby prior to the
1812 recording session.
Not surprisingly, this was the kind of recording beloved by hi-fi dealers, the more imaginative of them warning against high volume settings lest speakers exploded.
FANFARE: Ian Lace
Works on This Recording
1812 Overture, Op. 49 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Kamiel Lefévre (Carillon)
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra,
University of Minnesota Brass Band
Written: 1880; Russia
Length: 15 Minutes 20 Secs.
Notes: Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN (04/05/1958); Riverside Church, New York, NY (05/10/1958); US Military Academy, West Point, NY (07/30/1958)
Capriccio italien, Op. 45 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1880; Russia
Date of Recording: 12/22/1955
Venue: Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis, MN
Length: 14 Minutes 30 Secs.
Wellington's Victory, Op. 91 "Battle Symphony" by Ludwig van Beethoven
London Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1813; Vienna, Austria
Length: 14 Minutes 51 Secs.
Notes: Cannons and muskets were fired during this performance under the direction of Gerald G. Stowe.
Wembley Town Hall, England (06/09/1960); US Military Academy, West Point, NY (08/20/1960)
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
the best I've ever heard December 9, 2012
By J. Lisanti (Glen Ridge, NJ) See All My Reviews
"There are many wonderful versions of the 1812 out there, but this one blows them out of the water. It is performed with the added brass that Tchaikovsky wanted, and is not overly orchestral, again, as the composer called for, and, of course, the cannons! And the bells! It is triumphant. Just be careful if you play this in the car, as you may find yourself breaking the speed limit at the end. I wish I knew more people who loved classical music, as they would each get a copy of this."