John Philip Sousa marches, John Williams movie scores and maybe a Gershwin tune or two will surely appear on more than a few fireworks soundtracks during Independence Day celebrations this July 4. But composers have been providing their own pyrotechnics since the 18th century. Here are the Top 5 @ 105 works that create their own fireworks.
1. To celebrate the end of the war for Austrian succession in which England participated, King George II demanded a celebratory work from Handel to accompany a fireworks extravaganza. An unfortunate malfunction started a fire in the victory pavilion built for the occasion, but Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks survived.
2. In a specifically American take on the four seasons, Charles Ives wrote his Holidays Symphony and dedicated each of the four movements to a different annual holiday. The third movement, “The Fourth of July,” quotes "Yankee Doodle" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic" before ending with a cacophony of orchestral fireworks.
3. Stravinsky composed his four minute Feu d’artifice as a wedding present for Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s daughter and a fellow student. The expressive nature of the work so impressed Sergei Diaghilev that he commissioned Stravinsky to write Firebird for his Ballets Russes.
4. July 14 Bastille Day celebrations inspired Claude Debussy’s Feux d’artifices, his final PR master of the Atmosphere playful jumps across the piano with menacing beauty and spontaneity.
5. In Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, cannons add the firepower in this staple of summer outdoors classical music concerts. Though drums usually substitute for the heavy artillery, fireworks displays add a bombastic quality to this favorite.