Alan Menken: Overture from Beauty and the Beast

Context

When originally released in 1991, Alan Menken’s score for Beauty and the Beast was regarded as one of his best. The Oscar-winning score, with lyrics by Howard Ashman, was then recreated in the 2017 live-action version of the film. This new live-action film takes aspects of the score from both the original 1991 animated film, as well as the Broadway musical and new material written by Menken and Tim Rice. 

 

The Music

The Overture, as one would expect, lays out some of the famous tunes from the songs that are to come in the film. The lavish overture is very Broadway in its presentation, with the opening ‘Tale as old as time’ fanfare from the trumpets pushing through the textures. A modulated version is heard before the strings jump into the melody from ‘Belle’. The sparkling strings fizz with excitement as the bombastic brass and percussion keep the tempo moving into the bouncing waltz based on the tune from ‘Gaston’. 

A short interlude as the music changes key brings the music into ‘The Mob Song’, which has a very different character. The bold horns rip through the melody here, with the impending atmosphere sinking in. The vigorous syncopation between the brass and percussion in this section is particularly poignant. The upper strings take over once more as the music moves into ‘How Does a Moment Last Forever’. The solo violin delicately plays this tune as the texture begins to thin. This delicate section sees small solo lines from the clarinet and cello.

The orchestra then moves into a rich account of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, as the main melody is played by a rich united front of strings. As Menken builds up the texture in this section, the glorious brass leads into the huge climax. The orchestra swells together and bursts with a huge wall of sound. As the overture comes to an end, the trumpets lead on the final bursts of melodies from the film. The dramatic ending is powerful and is typical of a Broadway musical.

 

Happy Reading!

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