A Shakespeare Overture

by Anthony Ritchie, for orchestra, Opus 5

This overture was originally written in 1981 as part of his study, when the composer was in his third year at Canterbury University. Having never received a performance, the overture was then programmed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for the 'Made in New Zealand' concerts, in May 2011. Live Radio NZ Concert broadcasts were made of both concerts.

Programme Note

The starting point for the piece is a 6-note theme - C-D-G-A-E-F - attributed to the playwright William Shakespeare in a biography of his life by Anthony Burgess, simply called Shakespeare. The theme was allegedly written by Shakespeare for inclusion in his play Love's Labour's Lost. Burgess points out that this 6-note theme can be transposed at the tritone to produce a 12-note row. The theme appears as the second main idea in the fast section, and given a cheeky character on the oboe. Preceding this is a vigorous theme on strings that undergoes plenty of development during the course of the piece.

The overture begins with a slow introduction, brooding in character and featuring short cadenza-like solos for woodwinds. As the 'allegro' develops it assumes a mercurial character, with many sudden changes of colour, dynamics and rhythm. The climax of the overture features a blazing idea for three trumpets over stalking string lines.