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Battle Symphony

Beethoven was once commissioned by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel, the inventor of the so-called Panharmonicon (an music box powered by compressed air capable of reproducing the sounds of various instruments), to compose a new symphony for the machine to play at a benefit concert. Beethoven reluctantly agreed. Rather than compose a genuine symphony, however, he found a short cut.

A few months earlier, the English had defeated the French in Spain. Beethoven simply overlaid an English folk tune (to represent the English army) and a French folk tune (to represent the French). The resulting clash represented the battle -- with the English victory being represented by a rousing finale: "God Save the King."

[Ironically, by the time Beethoven had completed the symphony, the Panharmonicon was out of service. Beethoven re-scored the work for an orchestra and added cannon shots and musket fire. The Battle Symphony proved more popular than anything he had ever written.]

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