Chicago Symphony cancels 1812 overture

Chicago Symphony cancels 1812 overture


norman lebrecht

August 14, 2022

We hear that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has modified the programmmeof the September 24 Symphony Ball.

Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture has been dropped and replaced with the same composer’s Francesca da Rimini.



  • Lilas Pastia says:

    Sensible decision! The 1812, and the Marche Slave, were both written to celebrate Russian wars. At this time, when Russia has started a war to conquer another country, these work can be left unheard. Replacing the 1812 with another work by Tcaikovsky is sensible, and shows that Russian culture and great Russian artists are not unwanted or boycotted.

    • Novagerio says:

      Like boycotting La Marseillaise for “decapitating half its population”?…
      See where it’s going on the path of stupidity?
      And when was a war fought by cancelling art?

      • Lilas Pastia says:

        I haven’t read anything about France invading neighbouring countries recently.

        • G. Evans says:

          How recent is recently? Two hundred years have passed since the events commemorated by the 1812 overture. Shall we, in the UK, ban all Italian music because of the Roman invasion?

    • just saying says:

      I’ll assume you’re being sarcastic…

    • Potpourri says:

      The 1812 Overture celebrates Russia’s defeat of Napoleon, the Putin of his era who conquered much of Europe. It has nothing to do with Ukraine. Think of it as a history lesson.In the USA we play it with fireworks to celebrate victory (with help from the French) over the British in the American Revolutionary War.

  • Patrick says:

    It isn’t 1812 Overture’s fault, folks.

  • Hervé says:

    C ‘est d’ une stupidité incommensurable.

  • Novagerio says:

    How about Marche Slave?
    Or Prokofiev’s Alexander Newsky?
    Are they also going to be sacrificed on the altar of Wokism and Political Correctness?

  • GGV says:

    No budget for the cannons?

  • Maria says:

    What a load of woke and wilting wallflowers to cancel Russian music. What had Tchaikovsky have to do with a war in Ukraine or Putin, or anyone? Nothing!

  • chris says:

    A hellish move !

  • Arlette Hellemans says:

    How stupid can one be! Russian music is more worthful than Putin

  • sonicsinfonia says:

    Presumably they haven’t realised the 1812 Overture uses the old Imperial National Anthem

  • Bozidar Sicel says:

    The western world still can’t get over Russia’s glorious victory over Napoleon!?

  • Jared McNally says:

    I believe that the 1812 Overture is about overcoming and having victory over difficulties and problems. I do not believe that the piece has to be cancelled.

    • music lover says:

      Right.That´s exactly what Keith Lockhart and Thomas Wilkins (one of the most noble human beings among conductors)told the Boston Pops….It celebrates the victory over tyranny ,oppression and occupation of a foreign dictatorship.Exactly what the Ukraine suffers from now.And i´d rather not know what Tchaikovsky would have thought about Pootin´s anti gay ressentiments and laws.

  • Belding says:

    Oh no how will I be able to hear how the 1812 overture sounds now

  • Mike Jordan says:

    What about the PDQ Bach version? 1712? Would have been lovely

  • Alan Glick says:

    This woke nonsense will continue until ticket holders voice their displeasure and demand refunds. And complaints should go to orchestra management, not the box office. As an aside, it’s telling on the supposed superior morality of these wokesters that they turned a deaf ear to the Soviet Union during the decades when they were murdering tens of millions of innocent men women and children.

    • Clem Rob says:

      How much nonsense can be combined in one comment? You think it is the woke crowd that bothers about this? You think the people who now oppose the Putin regime are former fans of the USSR? Do you have the slightest beginning of a shadow of a hint of an idea of what you’re talking about?

  • Brandon says:

    Not clear why this is needing mention? They are playing it later this month at Ravinia, and it’s not clearly due to Russophobia since it’s the same composer. Maybe because it’s a terrible piece for a ball and they’ve just played it a month before?

    • Maria says:

      Then the letter sent out to subscribers should have made it crystal clear that they had it planned x 3 in two months, and it was all too much, not because of it being Russian! People will not see it as over scheduling in one city, except why on earth would any orchestra play any piece x 3 in two months in the same city?

      • Frowning houseplant says:

        Because Orchestra patrons just want the same pieces again and again…that’s why we get such repulsive programs year after year

  • Bob G says:

    More PC nonsense. Anything that extols a Russian military triumph is verboten. Even one from 200 years ago.

    • Genius Repairman says:

      Why would we want to listen to a piece of music celebrating a Russian victory when Russia is unjustly invading their sister nation. Tchaikovsky himself thought the 1812 sub -standard anyway. It also gets played so much that it would be nice to hear some different Tchaikovsky for a change.

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    This is outrageous. If even Muti is forced to bow to misguided pressures, then Arts, Culture and Beauty are seeing their ending doom. What has the world come down to?

    Now that this distasteful and entirely unnecessary precedent is set, I fear the worst. I am terrified that the supreme and royal Muti will be pressured to make an even grander empty gesture: returning his most treasured Russian honors, which he has so fairly earned, and are by him so fiercely loved.

    First, the Order of Friendship which he received from Putin himself. Muti and the CSO have been exceedingly proud of this rare honor, and rightly so. They have listed the honor on the Maestro’s printed biography, on the program booklets, for probably a good decade, right between his British Knighthood and the Knighthood of the Grand Cross First Class of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, the highest papal recognition. When Muti made his epic anti-Putin speech on the Chicago stage (we all remember where we were that magic evening), the mention of the award conferred by Putin was right there, winking out of the printed page, that very night. Stupid Chicago donors made a big fuss, and the CSO after that heroic but seemingly contradictory sermon (not in Latin hence more immediately grasped by the common man), out of an uncharacteristic excess of caution, felt obliged to stop printing any reference to the inconvenient distinction, and why did they ever print it to begin with, had Muti and the CSO not heard of the 2014 Russian military aggression of Ukraine, some clueless idiots said. The Maestro’s Italian website lazily followed and permanently removed a prominent reference to the Putin honor, and why did they ever put it there, had they lived on Mars and not been informed of Putin’s annexation of Crimea, malign critics wondered. We all thought it would end there. But no, shouldn’t the Maestro return the bloody Putin Order of Friendship, stubbornly foolish and dull-witted patrons and members of the US classical music community, as well as international observers kept asking, to this very day.

    Second, in October 2021, three or fourth month before the war started, in the headquarters of the Russian Embassy in Vienna, with an official ceremony, Muti was appointed Honorary Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Arts. The honor was awarded by the Russian Ambassador to Austria Dmitry Lyubinsky. Since 1997 to the present day, the RAA has been headed by Zurab Tsereteli, who in March 2014 reportedly signed a letter in support of the position of President Putin on Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine. Zurab Tsereteli is also universally known as the creator of a celebratory statue of Putin which eminent critics consider second only to some (not all) Michelangelo’s sculptures. God forbid, senseless and ignorant American donors and members of the audience blurted, why is the Maestro condemning Putin while keeping an honor he received from his Russian propagandists. And he, supposedly an evangelist of Beauty, has he even seen the bloody statue? Away, away, give back the RAA membership, they kept barking. Is Muti a big hypocrite, the most reprehensive and ungrateful of them dared to whisper. Think of the perhaps irreparable injury to the Maestro’s gentle soul, how hard it hit his deepest sense, which should be free to embrace awards from whoever it wishes, without being bound by pedestrian ethical norms or sound judgment.

    We say it now: The day that Muti returns his Russian awards is the day when freedom of the Arts will be forever lost.

    Meanwhile, with a grin and a vague flag of the hand for all of them, the Maestro will try to sweep this 1812 incident under the rug and live to fight another day. But he has been unjustly wounded and greatly offended, and deprived of this most bombastic Overture meant to crown his last Symphony Ball (but wait … is it really his last Chicago Symphony Ball? Or has Alexander, ever the magician, already secured a 2023 encore? More to come on this … , as the time had not yet arrived for such reckless spoilers :-DDD). We are not afraid to say it: Muti was literally robbed of one of the loudest bangs of his farewell “Russian blast” season. If high Russian music and the sublime Maestro are treated in this shameless, despicable way, well, all of us should be on our toes for the likely chance that Culture and Beauty will be taken away for good before the end of this deplorable witch hunt.

    • Alan says:

      You’ll be pleased to know the Salzburg/Vienna Phil programme makes no mention of the Putin award. You can stop now. Your point has apparently been proven.

      I attended an interview with Muti in Salzburg on Saturday. Very informative. And a very likable character!

    • The View from America says:

      So glad to see that Maestro Muti has snagged the real estate deal of a life-time: living rent-free in your head.

  • Igor Tomaszewski says:

    Actually the piece is about the defeat of an invader so I assume that CSO will put it on the programme to celebrate when Ukraine has managed to kick out the russians?

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    No no Chicago!


    When he hears about this, no doubt Putin will see the error of his ways, pull out of Ukraine, pay huge compensation and we’ll all live happily ever after!!!!!

  • M2N2K says:

    If you believe that Tchaikovsky’s “1812” is a piece that celebrates and glorifies Russian victorious military might (which it certainly does), then replacing it with a different piece by the same composer that is better (which most of them are) is a perfectly reasonable decision this year. If however you believe that the piece in question uses an example from 1812 to celebrate and glorify any nation that defends its territory and population against aggressive invaders (which could have been the composer’s intention), then performing it this year may be appropriate and justifiable.

  • Cornishman says:

    Whatever the political ramifications of it all, Francesca is a far better piece – so, musically, the concert will hardly be ruined.

  • Eric says:

    What’s the problem? They replaced a dreadful piece with a much better one by the same composer.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    Why stop at one piece? Cancel the whole orchestra. Orchestras waste precious natural resources in order to delight a few enthusiasts in antiquated fever dreams of Anglo-European cultural supremacy. The musicians can retrain for the new green economy, and the endowments can be repurposed to fight climate change and systemic racism.

    • Robert Fox says:

      These days, it is sometimes difficult to determine if someone is being sarcastic or serious. If that was sarcasm, I do not see the humor. If serious, are you aware that civilizations from S. America to Africa and all across Asia have been making music since emerging from the caves. The nicest thing I can say about you Curvy, is that you are culturally clueless.

  • KANANPOIKA says:

    Always liked our version best: We’d play the introduction and
    then immediately skip to the coda. That way we’d avoid two
    wars and that sappy interlude.

  • MacroV says:

    How easily the trolls are stirred. Francesca da Rimini is IMHO a much better piece.

  • George says:

    Funny how pro-Putin Internet commenters come out of the woodwork whenever Tchaikovsky’s name is mentioned. I wonder how many have even heard the 1812? It’s not a great piece at any rate. Francesa da Rimini is much, much better.

  • Hypnobaer says:

    I don’t think this has anything to do with Russia. Ravinia (where the CSO performs in the summer) is next to/in Highland Park and the community is still quite traumatized by the July 4th shooting. Could simply be they just didn’t want the cannons going off this summer??

  • David Leibowitz says:

    Oh, my heavens [clutches pearls] – a not-very-good work by Tchaikovsky is being replaced by a very good work by Tchaikovsky!!!

    Can we live with this horrible injustice???

    Oh, puhleeze…

  • Peter San Diego says:

    At least the audience won’t be shortchanged: Francesca da Rimini is a much, much better work than the 1812.

  • Viva Verdi says:

    “The (1812) overture will be very loud and noisy, but I wrote it without warmth or love so it will probably not have any artistic merit.” -Tchaikovsky

  • Freewheeler says:

    “Chicago homicides in 2022: 404 people have been slain.”
    I think we need to ban American Music.

  • Pedro says:

    Don’t forget that Tschaikovsky’s home in Ukraine has been bombed by the Russians.

  • Michael M says:

    I think some universities have removed Russian literature from their curricula… All this is utterly stupid. Besides, the 1812 Overture was written on an occasion when Russia happened to be the victim of attack. I agree that the overture is not first-rate music, but that was hardly the reason it was canceled.

  • Nina says:

    Everybody knows… That’s because of instrumental parts at the 1812 are too difficult

  • Miv Tucker says:

    Oh, bloody hell, not again!
    Even during WWII German music was never banned in Britain.

  • Tim Walton says:

    Crass stupidity, but it’s what we have come to expect when it eliminates from the US.

  • Kyle Covington says:

    San Diego symphony did the exact same thing months ago. Doesn’t make sense. Napoleon burned Moscow, then his forces died on the way home. I don’t understand the reason or cancelation.

  • Ross says:

    Just head to Ravinia this Sunday. The fabulous CSO, live cannons and the unmatchable beauty of Ravinia.

  • Guest Principal says:

    The players will be delighted.

  • Meghan Mrkl says:

    Rule, Britannia must now be removed from the Proms because of all the atrocities committed by the British Empire.

  • Jason says:

    Idiotic move. This is a case where Russophobia has gone too far. Tchaikovsky is one of the greatest contributors to the artistic world. His music should always be celebrated, not shunned because of politics. Banning performances for politics is like burning books.

  • Dmytro Gnativ says:

    Stop showing your ignorance in the comments!

    If you want answer then ask yourself this question: if Russia would be invading US, killing, raping and torture your people, would you still be happy to celebrate its “Great” Culture?

    I think we know the answer.

  • Jim says:

    I am cancelling Fur Elise given that there is no evidence that Beethoven sought consent before dropping it on the poor lass.

  • Jackie Enloe says:

    The 1812 is about defeating the bullies, the Putin of the day. I hope it wasn’t cancelled by political correctness because that just ain’t correct!