The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music poll: Is the ‘1812 Overture’ so popular on July 4th because we love guns? What American classical music should be played on the Fourth of July?

July 4, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

Today is the Fourth of July, when we Americans celebrate our independence from England.

Usually, live concerts and radio stations highlight American composers. That’s absolutely fitting, no? Especially since so often American classical music still lingers in the shadow of European music.

But there are exceptions.

I’ve never understood why Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” which marks the czarist Russian defeat of Napoleon and has nothing to do with America, is so popular to mark the Fourth of July.

Maybe it has to do our love affair with guns. Or our love of fireworks and loud noises like gunshots, especially in the dramatic finale, which you can listen to here:

Anyway, that hummable warhorse will be played tonight on the 30th annual PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. CDT. Pianist Lang-Lang and the National Symphony Orchestra will also perform.)

Here’s a link to information about the PBS program:

But aside from Sousa marches and patriotic songs, what classical music would you play to celebrate the Fourth of July?

Let me know.

I saw this on YouTube and found it quite moving both for the music and the non-American performers (the Hong Kong-based Asian Youth Orchestra), who add special meaning to the occasion.

I hope you do too.

Happy Fourth of July to all of us. We sure need a reason to celebrate these days.

Why do you think the “1812 Overture” is so popular?

What would you like to play or listen to celebrate the Fourth of July?

What did you think of this choice?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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