Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Classical music with a story

William Tell, the legendary Swiss patriot is forced to shoot the apple from his son's head. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images). Image courtesy NPR.

Today's music comes with a story -- it will help you delve deeper into the music. It will aid imagination!
And it helps that the music in focus is one of the most popular ever. The overture to an opera called 'William Tell', composed by Gioacchino Rossini.
Chances are that you have heard parts of this music (especially the finale) in advertisements, films and ... somewhere, you must have.

You were informed about the
'overture' in this story: It is the introduction to an opera, often instrumental. An Opera is a theatrical performance set to music.
Imagine going to see a play which starts with an instrumental introduction that sets the mood and puts you into the thick of things.

The William Tell overture comes with musical divisions. You may have heard the word 'symphony' somewhere. This is like a symphony, except that the symphony comes with gaps between the movements -- which means that the entire musical piece, the entire story is divided into three to four parts.
The William Tell overture is like a symphony except there are no gaps, no pauses in this roughly twelve minute piece. But there are four different moods, well-defined moods. You can follow this musical extravaganza while reading about them.

The divisions are:
Prelude, Dawn
Ranz des Vaches (call to the cows)
Finale, March Of The Swiss Soldiers
Isn't it amazing! You can get the feel of each of the pieces being played. You should be able to feel the dawn, the prelude... 'something's coming' at the start. Hear along, now.

Then the storm should be easily identifiable by the horns and the loud string section.
And it would be sheer pleasure when you move on to the 'call to the cows'. The flute and the horn will certainly bring them home. 

Until, enough with the storm! The sheer destruction! Let's give it back to the invading armies, through the 'march of the Swiss soldiers'. 

Yes Sir. This opera is set in the Swiss Alps. It has a beautiful dawn and a stormy storm, and mooing cows, and trumpeting soldiers.

The esteemed Royal Opera House lays out the story in brief:
The Swiss hero William Tell longs to liberate his people from the cruel Austrian occupation. When he helps a Swiss prisoner escape Austrian justice he comes to the attention of the governor Gesler – who sadistically forces Tell to shoot an apple off his son's head.

As Tell is arrested his fellow revolutionaries, led by the young patriot Arnold and his Austrian lover Mathilde, gather forces to fight for Swiss liberty. Tell escapes in time to lead the victorious uprising.

Furthermore -- and because we have good human beings -- a YouTube user called Stevan Sheth has provided you with this:
0:00 - 3:11  A Peaceful Day
3:11 - 4:12  The Stirring of Chaos
4:12 - 6:10  The Invasion
6:10 - 8:45  Rebuild
8:45 - 10:16   The Planning
10:16 - 12:05  The Payback
You can easily go back and forth and hear your favourite parts again, and probably again. He has divided the 'Storm' into 'The Stirring of Chaos' and 'The Invasion' -- referring to enemy attack after the peaceful day.

Then he has divided 'call to the cows' into 'rebuild' and 'the planning' -- getting back together, collecting, hoarding, and preparing for the eventual fight back.

This is an immensely powerful way to attune your senses to classical music. This takes you right into the heart of what some call 'difficult' classical music -- the actual thing, the hardcore-ness. 

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