A History of the Overture and its Use in the Wind Band: An Annotated Guide to Selected Overtures Scored Originally for Wind Band

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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 menue...

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..., Volume 2. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc.

National Band Association (1997) Selective Music List for Bands 4th Edition. Nashville, TN: National Band Association.

Peyser, J. (1986) The Orchestra: Origins and Transformations. New York: Charles Scribner’s and Sons.

Sadie, S. (1980) New Grove Dictionary for Music and Musicians. London: MacMillian.

Smith, N & Stoutamire, A. (1989) Band Music Notes. Lake Charles, LA: Program Note Press.

Stolba, M. K. (1998) The Development of Western Music, A History, Third Edition. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill

Stone, S. (1999) Charles Carter’s Symphonic Overture. The Instrumentalist, 54, 36, 38, 40, 42.

Turner, D. L. (1990) Conductor’s Choice: Annotated Selective Music List for Band

Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press.

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