• Model: Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture
  • Other allusions:
  • Pieces referenced:
    • Yankee Doodle
    • Pop Goes the Weasel
    • Beethoven, 1st Symphony in C Major, Op. 21, 1st movement
    • Jack Benny's Violin Exercise
    • Dvorak, Symphony No. 9 in E minor ("New World")
    • J.S. Bach, Toccata in D minor, BWV 565
    • Beatles, Day Tripper
1712 Overture

1712 Overture

1712 Overture. Anyone know what orchestra?


The 1712 Overture follows Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture very closely. Tchaikovsky's work is in the traditional sonata-overture form, with a slow introduction, a sequence of themes, a recapitulation of the themes, and a coda. P.D.Q. takes a few shortcuts but basically follows the same structure.

The piece starts with a short quotation from "Yankee Doodle," which then turns into a chorale very much like the one that opens 1812. This is a musical pun, since "Yankee Doodle" starts with the same four notes as "God Preserve Thy People," the chorale which Tchaikovsky uses.

The main section opens with an agitated theme that doesn't directly resemble the one in Tchaikovsky but is similar in mood (aside from having a lot more percussion) (and aside from somehow wandering into a blues melody lifted from "Ain't Got No Home" by Clarence "Frogman" Henry) (and aside from using mouthpieces as wind instruments). This leads to an almost literal quotation from 1812, which sounds as if it's going to bring us to La Marseillaise as in Tchaikovsky, except that it arrives at "Pop Goes the Weasel." Again, a similarity of notes in the two tunes becomes a musical pun.

The music then winds down from this climax, still almost quoting Tchaikovsky directly, and comes to the rising fourths which, in Tchaikovsky, introduce the second theme. Here, though, the fourths keep piling on, steadily getting more dissonant, before they do that. They do lead to a slow second theme which sounds very much like the one in 1812, but it does nothing but go up and down the scale within the range of a fifth, with accompanying bird calls. The rising fourths are repeated, and now the organ takes over the theme, continuing into a long cadenza over a pedal note. The zig-zag descending thirds which the organ introduces are important for the rest of the overture.

The orchestra leads into the recapitulation with fanfares like the ones that quote "La Marseillaise" in Tchaikovsky, except that here they quote "Pop Goes the Weasel" again. The agitated theme jumps abruptly to a part which corresponds to the coda in the 1812, with "Pop the Weasel" played more loudly and dramatically, punctuated by popping balloons instead of cannons. The zig-zag thirds slow the tempo down at great length, leading to a return of the "Yankee Doodle" chorale just as the "God Preserve Thy People" chorale returns in Tchaikovsky. P.D.Q. follows Tchaikovsky in adding bells to the clamor, adding various noisemakers as well. There's a hint of "The Great Gate of Kiev," which may or may not be intentional.

This is followed by a tune that's similar to the quickstep tune from 1812, with the phrases just slightly rearranged. Where "God Save the Czar" enters in Tchaikovsky, this piece adds the main theme from the last movement of Dvořák's "New World" Symphony, in counterpoint with the quickstep but in a different key, and with more popping ballons. The orchestra then wraps things up with a bit of a jazz inflection, and just before the last chord the organ interrupts with a quotation from Bach's D minor Toccata.

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