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Overture, part 1

The word overture comes from the French word which means opening. And the earliest standard form of overture was in fact the French overture, invented in the mid-1600s by Jean Baptist Lully, court composer to King Louis XIV Louis. Lully’s overtures had 2 sections, the 1st stately and slow the 2nd lively and quick. The quick section featured a musical style known as imitative counterpoint in which several instrumental lines all sound the same melody one after the other, the lines then overlapping and playing off one another.

Among the many composers who copied this form was George Frederick Handel who used overtures in the French style, even for his Italian operas and English oratorios. Handle’s Messiah for example begins with a French overture.

Toward the end of the 17th century Italian composers developed their own form of overture - but more on that tomorrow.

I’m Miles Hoffman and this has been A Minute with Miles, made possible by the JM Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.