I am re-reading the Horatio Hornblower series of books that I love.  The current book is Commodore Hornblower, which unlike others, I have read only once.

Hornblower is now a Commodore (above Captain and below Admiral) and takes his group of ships into the Baltic sea in June 1812.  At the time Russia and Sweden were somewhat allied with Napoleon but neutral enough that an English commodore could be invited ashore to meet the local gentry.  He is in the port of Riga (now Latvia but then a part of Russia) when Napoleon invades Russia.  So suddenly England is now an ally of Russia and Hornblower meets the local Generals of the Russian army prepared to fight the French to see how he can assist.  In the meeting he is introduced to a Prussian officer Von Clausewitz who has abandoned the Prussian army, which is now part of Napoleon’s army.  Von Clausewitz is acting as an advisor to the Russian Army.

Now at this point I stopped and said, wait a minute is this true?  So got onto the internet and sure enough Von Clausewitz  (along with other Prussian officers) did switch to the Russian army in 1812 (rather than serve under Napoleon)

As I read about this period of his career at this time, it easily lead to the Napoleon march into Russia in the summer and fall of 1812, with the battle of Borodino, the burning of Moscow and the eventual destruction of the French army as winter came on.

Now in the historical reading you come across the Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture which apparently replicates the 6 months of the French invasion of Russia and the eventual Russian victory.

I have listened to this overture many times and always had the misguided opinion that it was only about the Battle of Borodino but it is actually about the entire 6 months.

There is a breakdown on the internet to the sections of the music linked to the historical events.  Never knew this, so I played one of the versions of 1812 that we have on our Sonos while following the stages.  But as Pat and I listened to it, we realized this was not the version that we loved when we lived in Markham with the Cincinnati Symphony and the big guns.

In about 1980 I had invested in a very expensive Stereo system with speakers that  could entertain a rock concert.  I purchased the Cincinnati Symphony record because it was considered the best on the market (at the time it cost an astronomical $25).  The symphony actually used real 18th century guns for the 16 cannon shots that were originally intended by Tchaikovsky.  Most orchestra recordings use a big Kettle drum to simulate the cannon but there is no comparison.

I am sure our older kids will remember that setting up the speakers in the street and playing the 1812 overture was a highlight of the Sir Ector Court summer party.

But somehow this recording was lost (along with the 18″ speakers) in our many moves.  The recorded versions we have are nice, typical of great orchestras, but weak and not the same.  Tonight, after hours of searching I have downloaded the digital version of the original recording that we loved.  While there is always a limitation in digital and MP3 and our fairly limited ceiling speakers, it was still lovely.  Even Pat cheered at the end.

All because I was re-reading Hornblower.