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Beethoven: Wellington’s Victory

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: It’s one of the first big orchestral showstoppers

Wellington’s Victory is perhaps one of Beethoven’s oddest pieces. The piece was composed to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s victory at the Battle of Vitoria over the forces of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s older brother. It was originally written in collaboration with the inventor Johann Mälzel to showcase his newest invention, the panharmonicon. The panharmonicon was essentially one of history’s earliest robots and was able to play the instruments of a military band. Beethoven then took the piece one step further and arranged it for a full orchestra with two wind bands playing tunes to represent the British and French armies and a huge battery of percussion instruments to create battle sounds. The fully-orchestrated work was a huge crowd-pleaser at is premiere in 1813, but has since become only more than a “novelty” piece.

Music Heard On This Episode

Ludwig van Beethoven: "Symphony of Victory” from Wellington’s Victory
London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dorati, cond. — Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture; Capriccio italien; Beethoven: Wellington’s Victory (Phillips, 1995)
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album cover
Ludwig van Beethoven: "Symphony of Victory” from Wellington’s Victory
London Symphony Orchestra/Antal Dorati, cond. — Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture; Capriccio italien; Beethoven: Wellington’s Victory (Phillips, 1995)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

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