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French overturelocked

  • George Gow Waterman
  •  and James R. Anthony

Extract

A festive musical introduction for an opera, ballet or suite. The form combines a slow opening, marked by stately dotted rhythms and suspensions, with a lively fugal second section. It originated with Lully’s ballet overtures of the 1650s and quickly became the sole pattern for French opera and ballet overtures. In its day it was much copied, borrowed and adapted, but gradually in the mid-18th century it gave way to more flexible, energetic or dramatic approaches, particularly the rival Italian sinfonia. The French overture is now regarded not only as a prominent Baroque form, but as an expression of the elegant tastes of 17th-century France, as an illustration of Lully’s penetrating influence, and above all as the earliest important genre of prefatory music for the stage....

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