Ferdinand Hérold: Zampa Overture


Ferdinand Hérold’s comic opera, Zampa was premiered in Paris in May 1831. Although a highly popular production in Europe and the USA during the next fifty years, by the time of the turn of the century, Zampa had faded in popularity. Its overture, however, has remained an orchestral staple since its conception and is performed in concert halls around the world. 


The Music

Opening with a thrilling orchestral statement of the main theme, the excitable overture gets off to a bombastic beginning. Full of energy and zest, the comes to a dramatic halt as the lower brass lead into the next section. After this a solo clarinet emerges, accompanied by other woodwind instruments. This chorale section is sweet sounding and offers a very different character to the opening. 

As pizzicato strings initiate the move back into the quick tempo, the main theme returns on the upper strings. Hérold slowly builds the texture up at this point until the full tutti sound is reached and the climax flourishes. A dance-like theme that is heavily accompanied by percussion plays out and is a typical kind of sound for a Parisian orchestral piece. 

Another quiet section led by a solo clarinet plays out before Hérold builds the texture back up once more. The sweet melody is decorated by the piccolo flute and is played very lightly by the strings. The tempo begins to speed up which leads to a brilliant brass fanfare. This initiates the start of the final stretch of the overture. The bold brass interludes paired with the racing string motif creates excitement that leads to a classic V-I conclusion.


Happy Reading!

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