O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The 1812 Overture and The Holy Cross

Today is the Third Sunday of Great Lent. In the Byzantine Rite, we venerate the Holy Cross on this Sunday.

Tropar of the Holy Cross, Tone 1:
O Lord, save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance! Grant victory to faithful Christians over their adversaries, and by virtue of Thy cross, preserve Thy habitation.

Did you know that the Tropar of the Holy Cross is chanted in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture? The piece is about Napoleon's (failed) invasion of Russia. It was composed to mark the anniversary of that victory by Russia. Let's pick up the overture at the 11:30 mark below. First we have Napoleon's invasion of Russia marked by the French National Anthem and 5 cannon shots. Then at 12:15, we have descending violins marking Napoleon's forces being annihilated by the Russian winter. Then at 12:55 we have the bells of the Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Moscow (Moscow's main cathedral; the piece was specifically written for this cathedral so that it could debut in this cathedral with the cathedral's bells serving as themselves in the piece) calling all of Russia to prayer while the Tropar of the Holy Cross is chanted (the text of the chant makes it obvious why the Russians chose to chant it at such a time). At 13:59 we have Russia's counter represented by the Russian Imperial Anthem with over twice the cannon shots (11!). In celebration of the merciless rout, at 14:31, we have the same cathedral bells ringing in thanksgiving. And you thought the 1812 Overture had nothing to do with the faith...