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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Roman Carnival Overture (Berlioz)


Overture, Le Carnaval romain
Op. 9
(English title: Roman Carnival Overture)

Hector Berlioz
(1803-69)



Berlioz opera of "Benvenuto Cellini" met with an unfortunate reception when first performed in Paris in 1838. When the opera was about to be produced in London, he wrote a second overture,"The Roman Carnival," to be played before the second act. The principal theme is taken from the Saltarello, in the closing scene of the first act of the opera. The overture begins with this theme, given by the violins with response at first in the flute, oboe and, clarinet, and then in the horns, basoon, trumpet, and cornet. After a sudden pause and some light passage work in the strings, woodwinds, and horns, the movement changes to the theme taken from an aria of Benvenuto's in the first act, given out by the English horn. The subdued melody is next taken by the violas, passing to the horns and violas. The interwoven with this romantic melody is heard a dance pasage in the woodwinds and brasses, also in the percussion instruments. Gradually the dance passage dies away, giving place to the Andante theme, but anon the time changes, and the strings begin the Saltarello, completing the main section of the overture. The entire development now runs on this movement with the Andante heard at intervals in contrast, and worked up in close harmony. The Saltarello dominates the Finale at a rushing pace. The overture is brilliant throughout and full of the gay, bustling scenes of the carnival.





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