An overture is an instrumental work played before the beginning of a dramatic work. It was used to prepare the audience for the rest of the show and often used themes from later in the piece. An Italian Overture is an introduction to an opera or vocal work and has three simple sections of fast-slow-fast. Popular overtures in the eighteenth century would often be played outside of their operatic contexts in public concerts. This recording is from the beginning of a popular overture in the eighteenth from Paisiello’s overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia. The example uses flutes, oboes, bassoons, violins, viola, cello, and double bass.
Fortepiano is a dynamic marking used to denote an accent or stress in the music by suddenly being loud (forte) and then immediately soft (piano). The marking is written as “fp” directly underneath the note where it occurs. This marking appeared frequently in the eighteenth century as a more flexible system of dynamics was forming. In this example from Paisiello’s overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia, the fortepiano is heard every few seconds from the whole orchestra. This concept should not to be confused with the fortepiano, a keyboard instrument from the eighteenth century.
Ostinato is a short phrase, chord or melody that repeats continuously through a section or whole piece of music. It is generally a simple and easy to remember pattern. The name comes from the Italian word for “obstinate” because of its repetitious nature. It has been a popular musical element for centuries. In the example from Paisiello’s overture to Il barbiere di Siviglia, listen to the lower sounding string instruments for two different ostinato patterns. The first pattern is a single repeating note and the second is a melodic pattern.
Sound recording of the finale to Duke University’s Ciompi Quartet playing of Schubert’s Quartet in A minor in the Blackwell common room. Recorded on Samsung Galaxy S6