Gioachino Rossini: William Tell

Although the composer lived for almost another 40 years, William Tell was to be his final opera, and many suggest his finest.

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For his 39th opera, Rossini turned to the legend of William Tell with a French libretto by Étienne de Jouy and Hippolyte Bis, based on a play by Friedrich Schiller. In setting the drama of Switzerland's 14th-century freedom-fighter, Rossini used a much more refined style than was to be found in his previous, more ostentatious works. The opera was premiered at the Paris Opéra at the Salle Le Peletier on 3 August 1829

There's one part of this opera which is more widely known more than any other, and it's of course the Overture. In it Rossini initially invokes his idol Beethoven, with a luscious pastoral opening. The music then reaches a galloping climax in the Finale, 'March Of The Swiss Soldiers'. With trumpets blaring, Rossini depicts the Swiss soldiers' victorious battle to liberate their homeland from Austrian repression. It's one of the most distinctive themes in classical music, and through its use in 'The Lone Ranger' it's now almost mandatory music for any fast-paced chase scene.

Gioachino Rossini: William Tell recordings

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