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Overture, part 4

A Minute with Miles
Mary Noble Ours
SC Public Radio

For the past few days, we’ve been looking into the history of the overture, particularly the opera overture. Under the influence of Gluck and in the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, and virtually all the important opera composers who followed, the opera overture developed from an entertaining curtain raiser to a piece in which the composer tried to set the emotional stage for the dramatic action that followed.

The overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni is an excellent example. Borrowing musical material from the body of the opera, Mozart let us know from the very first note of the overture that powerful forces will be unleashed, and that something - or somebody, as it turns out - will be cooking before the evening is over. In Don Giovanni Mozart also did something new by having the overture lead directly into the opening action without pause.

Richard Wagner, for one, adopted this method with a number of his later operas, calling his introductions “preludes,” rather than overtures.

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, 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.