The second graders are building on their knowledge of Russia’s most famous composer: Peter Tchaikovsky. This year we are studying his1812 Overture. He was asked to write a piece of music to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the War of 1812 when Russia’s army stopped Napoleon’s army. Since Tchaikovsky loved to compose long pieces (this one is 15 minutes), we’re just listening to the Finale (which is about 5 minutes). In 1974 Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler played it in his 4thof July concert, and since then it’s often used for independence celebrations in the United States.
We started by doing a parachute routine and listening for the things Tchaikovsky put into the music to make it sound like the Russians felt: happy, excited, proud, maybe a bit sad to lose friends or family in the battles. We discovered how he used dynamics, tempo changes, and instruments—like brass instruments, voices, and cannons (!)—to express the emotions in his music.
Here is the video clip we listened to.
After listening and discussing, students answered these questions. Their answers proved to be
1. When does the Finale happen in the 1812 Overture?
beginning middle end
2. Why did Tchaikovsky choose cannons as instruments in his orchestra?
3. What feelings was Tchaikovsky trying to bring out of his listeners?
4. What do you think about when you hear this music?