program notes by composition > W > William Tell Overture

William Tell Overture

Gioacchino Antonio Rossini/arr. Erik W. G. Leidzen

William Tell Overture The opening to this opera is familiar not only to lovers of classical music but also to a broader audience due to its use in a radio and television series in the fifties, parodies, cartoons and movies. The opera includes the famous incident of the tyrant who condemns Tell to shoot an apple from the head of his little son as punishment for Tell's insubordination. Tell later kills  the tyrant with an arrow from a great distance and is hailed as liberator.

The overture has four parts: Prelude - a serene mountain scene in Switzerland; Storm - dynamic, tempestuous; Ranz des Vaches (call to the dairy cows) - pastoral neatherds singing bits of song between blasts on their horns as they assemble grazing cattle, featuring the English horn and flute; and Finale - ultra-dynamic "cavalry charge" galop with horns and trumpets.

Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868) was a popular Italian composer who created 39 operas as well as sacred music and chamber music. A tendency for inspired, songlike melodies is evident throughout his scores, which led to the nickname "The Italian Mozart."

Rossini was born into a family of musicians in Pesaro on the Adriatic coast. His father was a horn player and inspector of slaughterhouses, his mother, a singer and baker's daughter. By the age of six he was playing the triangle in his father's band. While his father was in prison for having supported Napoléon, Rossini was raised in Bologna by a pork butcher and later apprenticed to a blacksmith. Both men encouraged his considerable musical talents as a horn player, cellist and composer. Rossini composed his first opera in his teens and quickly rose to popularity across all of Europe.

Artistic success brought Rossini financial security. Appointed Inspector-General of Singing in France, he began semi-retirement at 32. He settled in Paris and indulged his passions as a gourmand and amateur chef. Today there are a number of "alla Rossini" dishes that were either created by him or specifically for him. Click on for a link to a recipe for Tournedos Rossini.

Last updated on July 8, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band