Vocal-Instrumental Transfer in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (1880)

Level of Education of Students Involved


Faculty Sponsor

Dr Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-27-2023


Tchaikovsky's fascination for Russian sacred music is generally acknowledged in Western classical musical and scholarly circles. Lesser known is that he also employed markers of Russian sacred music in certain instrumental works to carve out a unique "Russian" sound. In investigating Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture from a historical, cultural, and analytical perspective, I focus, on the one hand, on broad elements proving Tchaikovsky's vocal-to-instrumental transfer of Russian sacred music tropes into his overture, such as his continuity-driven phrases, the blurring of rhythm and meter, and an emphasis on the bass line; but I also take a look at specific references such as in the opening section where Tchaikovsky employs an instrumental version of the Russian Orthodox hymn “O Lord Save Thy People”. While several scholars have investigated Tchaikovsky's Russian sacred music, among them Olga Dolskaya-Ackerly (2001), Lindsay Norden (1919), and Alfred Swan (1973), none of them have focused on how Tchaikovsky materialized his imagination of an inherently Russian sacred aesthetic in certain orchestral works. By closely investigating parameters of texture, register, and meter; and by considering the hymn reference, a Russian sacred vocal aesthetic reveals itself in the 1812 Overture, offering a new way of listening to the piece.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Elias Anderson is a senior music and mechanical engineering major at Valparaiso University. He previously took a course on Russian history through Christ College where he wrote a research paper on how the Russian Orthodox Church was able to survive Bolshevik persecution. He now is harnessing his musical skills along with his knowledge of Orthodoxy to examine how classical music and sacred music join together in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

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