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Beethoven: Wellington’s Victory, Victory Symphony

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: It’s one of the first 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, who invented the metronome among other mechanical wonders. The piece showcased his newest invention, the panharmonicon, which was essentially one of history’s earliest robots. This curious machine was able to play the instruments of a military band. Beethoven 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.

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