A History Of The Overture And Its Use In The Wind Band: An Annotated Guide To Selected Overtures Scored Originally For Wind Band

3253 words - 13 pages

A History of the Overture and its Use in the Wind Band

The term overture is be defined as "a piece of music of moderate length, either introducing a dramatic work or intended for concert performance" (Sadie, 1980). It may be a single or multi-movement composition preceding an opera, ballet or oratorio; a single movement prelude to a non-musical dramatic work; or a single movement concert piece detached from its original context intended to be performed alone (Peyser, 1986).

The overture grew out of 17th century baroque dramatic works which began with either a French ouverture, the word from which the term is derived, or an Italian overture (Sadie, 1980). Composers such as Lully, Purcell and Handel used the French overture which is in two sections, each marked with a repeat. The French overture begins with a slow homophonic section frequently using dotted rhythms often ending on a half cadence and then moves to a faster fugal or "quasi-fugal" section which usually makes a return to the slow tempo and rhythms of the first section (Stolba, 1998). The Italian overture, or sinfonia as it was sometimes called, was written in three movements which are fast-slow-fast in order, the finale often written in a dance like character (Peyser, 1986). By the eighteenth century, this type of overture prevailed for operas even in France with the first movement becoming longer and more elaborate. Sonata form was generally used and a slow introduction would often begin the work (Sadie, 1980). Due to the loose terminology of the eighteenth century, symphonies and suites were sometimes called overtures (Peyser, 1986). The slow-fast-slow alternation of tempos foreshadowed the order of movements in the Classical symphony, lacking only the menuetto. Some historians go as far as to say that the Italian opera overture served "as the true model for the symphony" (Cuyler, 1995).

By the mid to late eighteenth century, there came a tendency to drop the second and third movements of the overture as it split from the symphony. Mozart and Haydn both wrote their last three-movement overtures in the 1770’s with the remaining movement in many cases leading immediately into the first scene. A special ending had to be added for separate concert performance (Peyser, 1986). The repeat found at the end of the first movement exposition of a symphony is most often not present and the development section while modulatory, contains little or no thematic development (Sadie, 1980). Some composers such as Schubert or Rossini would "omit the ‘development’ altogether, as in Il barbiere di Sivigilla (Sadie, 1980). The style of a Mozart overture using, sonata form often with a slow introduction, became standard even until 1820 (Sadie, 1980). Overtures of this period would use few or no musical ideas of the main work it was introducing (Peyser, 1986).

Changes began to appear in the overture from the time of Beethoven and on. The notion of tying the overture in mood and theme became...

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