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Overture to "Rienzi"

Richard Wagner
(1813-83)



Wagner completed the book of "Rienzi," based upon Bulwer’s novel, in 1838, and began the music in the autumn of that year. It was finished in 1839, and performed for the first time in Dresden in 1842. The overture is in the regular form, for "Rienzi" was written before Wagner had taken his new departure in music, and is based upon some of the themes in the opera. It opens with a slow movement, announced in trumpet calls, introducing after a few measures an impressive theme in the strings, Rienzi’s Prayer for the People. This is repeated by woodwinds and brasses with accompaniment in violins and violas. At the close of the repeat the main section begins with the theme sung by the chorus at the end of the first act, in which occurs also the battle hymn assigned to the brasses fortissimo, and combined with the theme of Rienzi’s Prayer. An episode based on the theme of the slow movement leads to the second subject, sung in the finale of the second act. In the reprise, the second subject is connected with a counter theme in the trombones. A Coda of most vigorous intensity, founded on the battle hymn, closes the overture.





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