Work: Guillaume Tell: Overture
About This Work
Rossini's oversized spectacle Guillaume Tell, his last opera, is not widely performed these days, but the famous overture lives on in countless orchestral performances, television reruns, and whistled renditions of its final section. Sometimes even
that final section is excerpted from its surroundings, but listeners to such performances miss the scope and variety of color that give the overture its power. It begins with a celebrated quiet section for cellos and basses representing a peaceful sunrise in Switzerland; a storm then breaks out, followed by a wonderful English horn solo representing the pastoral scenes of mountain meadows. The famous trumpet call heralds the patriotic Swiss army, and leads to the equally famous double-time galop used as the theme to The Lone Ranger program on radio and television. Partly because he stopped composing while still a young man and partly because of his contemporaneity with late Beethoven and Schubert, one tends to think of Rossini as a musical conservative whose music harked back to a Classical ideal of natural melody. Yet Guillaume Tell was in many ways the first grand opera, and its overture, unprecedented in its time, was recognized as a cornerstone of the orchestral repertory well before the first Hollywood cowboy rode into the studio. In its vivid programmatic qualities and in its use of a rousing popular dance (the galop), the overture, chestnut though it may be, was once well ahead of its time.
-- All Music Guide
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