Saturday, March 8, 2008


You just can't beat that 1812 Overture.

This is what happens to you when you hear it.

First of all, it starts with Russian church music, and NOBODY does church music like the Russkies. Nobody.

I can feel the dark church with the glow from the iconostasis. I smell the incense, I see the robes of cloth of gold. There are the small, stooped, strong women in their babushkas. Where are they now? Do they wear those babushkas in heaven? Are their hands not so arthritically knotted there?

The scene shifts to the wide outdoors. When the horns start I can see the arched necks of the army horses and hear the jangle as they mouth their bits and that wonderful solid sound of horses' hooves hitting earth. There are the triumphant horns of the army, but La Marseillaise tells me that it's the FRENCH army!

The musical scene moves on. The little peasant dance music making you feel your deep love for your land. Those few bars make me see the land as clearly as Tolstoy makes me see it.

And then, ha! winter is upon those damned French. The violins perfectly portray the swirling snow, the bitter, brittle cold, the long black nights full of ice-chip stars and too-small fires. The long, starving march home. How the hell can violins be swirling snow on dark nights? Who invented the violin anyway? Why aren't there 50-foot statues of this person all over the world?

Next is heard Russian cannon kicking Napoleonic ass and when those violins come tumbling down like water over a cliff, like the tumbling of a defeated, broken enemy, and the church bells tumble, too, but in joy, and the music and your spirit, foe vanquished, climbs back UP....and La Marseillaise is replaced by the Russian national anthem...well!

Oh, yeah, and cannons. How great is that? Church bells, cannons, and swirling snow violins. Can't beat it.

1 comment:

Conor said...

JUST read this for the first time... I'm actually in the middle of a movie with friends. Had to comment, saying that it was utterly awesome.

Will be back tomorrow, naturally, after sleep.