Thursday, 28 November 2013

The William Tell Overture

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There is a joke which says that an intellectual is someone "who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger." One of the most popular pieces of classical music ever written, Gioachino Rossini's William Tell Overture is instantly recognizable and has been used, reused, parodied and abused for countless purposes, not the least significant being The Lone Ranger and Disney's The Band Concert.

This 12 minute piece, the overture to Rossini's 1829 opera William Tell based on the Swiss legend and  play by Friedrich Schiller, has four movements. The first, "Prelude (Dawn)," sets the stage of the Swiss Alps that serve as the opera's backdrop. This is followed by "Storm," which is self-explanatory. The calm after the storm is the "Ranz des Vaches" or "Call to the the Cows," which has been employed over, and over, and over again as aural shorthand for both the arrival of Spring and of the dawn. The William Tell Overture ends in hyperdrive with the "Finale (March Of The Swiss Soldiers)," otherwise known as the theme from The Lone Ranger. This "cavalry charge" recapitulates the scene from the final act of the opera in which the Swiss soldiers arrive to liberate the nation from Austrian oppression. As a form of music called a "galop," the "Finale" lends itself very well to any scene of horses galloping, or anything moving at a quickened pace, including the hearts of anyone listening. For the finale of Disney's film, Hans Zimmer goosed just this one movement to almost the same length as the whole overture, but the payoff was fantastic!

The following video clip presents the Neponset Valley Philharmonic Orchestra recording the complete William Tell Overture for their Pops in Love concert of February 13, 2011.

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