Gioachino Rossini - Guglielmo Tell (Guillaume Tell) - Overture (Chailly) - No. 3 & 4. The call to the dairy cows & The Galop




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Published on Oct 11, 2008

With "Guillaume Tell" Rossini finally offered Parisian audiences an original opera in French, though the public wouldn't be too excited by Rossini's experiment with the genre and the opera; coldly received at the premiere, not often performed after, never truly forgotten, but not a popular favorite, the work has only recently went through a veritable Renaissance on the wave of reappraisal belcanto has enjoyed for the past fifty years and it absolutely deserves our reevaluation. Into its historical panorama based on the play by Schiller Rossini wove pastoral elements, patriotic deeds and superbly drawn characters. He responded imaginatively to the challenge of creating a work for the French Opera without abandoning his Italian roots, integrating the belcanto lyricism and formal refinement of Italian opera (mostly evident in the lovers' music) with the declamatory immediacy and scenic splendor (particularly in the extensive choruses and ballets) of French opera. Carefully written, harmonically daring, purged of melodic ornamentation, orchestrally opulent, "Guillaume Tell" represents a final purification of Rossini's style, possibly his best creation.

When I first listened through it, I couldn't believe just how ideal it was: the whole opera is composed on one breath, there are virtually no self-borrowings, as Rossini usually did, moreover, each piece has its' logical place in the whole opera, making for a thoroughly delightful experience; the story is exciting and, though not without its' problems (Arnoldo and Matilde being an archetypal pair of lovers), is believable; even running at four hours, the work never grows boring, on the contrary, I found myself almost hoping that something less than charming would pop out, but no, the composer presents us with inspiration on every corner. In short, it's a crowning achievement of Rossini's career. But let us pass onto the music itself.

It is truly impossible to choose any favorites from the score, as it has just too many inspired pages; my choices are thus dictated purely by my personal tastes: I've decided to post both ballet sequences and the choruses attributed to them; the first two finales, including the famous meeting of the Swiss at night; three arias, one each for the three main protagonists; a duet for Tell and Arnoldo and, of course, the overture. I do think that these pieces represent the work at its' best, though I would urge you to find yourself a complete version and listen to it from beginning to the very end. It's well worth an evening of your time :).

The version of the score that I have chosen to represent it is, in my opinion, the best rendition readily available: recorded with a star cast (Sherill Milnes, Luciano Pavarotti, Mirella Freni are only some of the names appearing in it) in between 1978-1979 under the leadership of Chailly, the recording, though sung in Italian, is, in a word, an ideal representation of the piece, as it captures both the dramatic intensity of the text and the orchestration and the sheer vocal splendor that Rossini provided to his audience. We start with the overture.

The overture to "Guillaume", well-known separately from the work, is a forerunner of things to come. Like the opera-proper to follow, it is superbly dramatical, featuring not two or three, as per tradition, but four highly individual movements. The whole overture seems, unlike most Rossini's orchestral opening to his operas, intimately connected with the opera itself, as it is, basically, an invocation of Switzerland.

3. Ranz des Vaches (call to the dairy cows) features a melting solo for the English horn with delightful flute flourishes over sustained strings. Perhaps, Rossini best orchestral movement.

4. The famous galop "cavalry charge" is heralded by trumpets and played by full orchestra. A most fitting ending to a wonderful overture.

Hope you'll enjoy :)!


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