Friday, July 22, 2016

Curtain Raisers

No. 226 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series series series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

This week’s montage is wholly inspired by a YouTube Playlist I assembled a few years backfor a Tuesday Blog, where I tried to gather a series of concert overtures.

I make the distraction between a these and overtures to stage woirks – mainly operas – that are often played in concert. My aim was to try and showcase works that are intended for the concert stage, and not to accompany a stage performance.

TYwo of the pieces in the montage were, at least at one point, meant to be opera overtures. Les francs-juges is the title of an unfinished opera by Hector Berlioz written to a libretto by his friend Humbert Ferrand in 1826. Berlioz abandoned the incomplete composition and destroyed most of the music. He retained the overture, which has become a popular concert item. This was the first work Berlioz wrote solely for orchestra and it is the earliest of his compositions to retain a place in the repertoire today.

Like for the Berlioz piece, Antonín Dvořák’s Tragic Overture (also called the Dramatic Overture) was intended as the overture to his first, never published, opera Alfred.

Staying in the Slavic/Russian vein, I retained works by two of Dvořák’s Russian contemporaries – Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Rimskys’ overture’s full title is Russian Easter Festival Overture: Overture on Liturgical Themes and was composed in tribute to the passing of two of his contemporaries (Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin) who were part of the group of St-Petersburg-based composers we often refer to as “The Mighty Handful”, Russian composers that were instrumental in composing very nationalistic music (the other two being Mily Balakirev and Cesar Cui).

To complete the program, two overtures by Canadiab composers – Sir Ernest MacMillan’s non-descript Overture is one of few works for orchestra the well-renowned conductor left behind, and André Gagnon’s Petite Ouverture opens his album Projection, one of a long series of formulaic releases of short “pseudo-classical:” works that culminate with a major composition that provides the album’s title.

I think you will love this music too.