Overture (Fr. ouverture Ouvertüre sinfonia)
- Nicholas Temperley
A piece of music of moderate length, either introducing a dramatic work or intended for concert performance. See also French overture.
The word ‘overture’ derives from the French ouverture, which denoted the piece in two or more sections that formed a solemn introduction to a ballet, opera or oratorio in the 17th century. (It was sometimes applied, notably by Bach, to a suite comprising a French overture and a group of dance movements.) In 18th-century usage it was extended to works of the symphony type, whether or not they were preludes to dramatic works; the terms were often used interchangeably. Thus in the 1790s Haydn’s London symphonies were sometimes billed as ‘overtures’....