Arne : Medley Overture : Keyboard
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Composer: Thomas Arne (1710 - 1778)
Although not published until 1763, Arne's Medley Overture appears to have been written some 30 years earlier, possibly for use with the pantomime "Harlequin Restor'd", with subsequent rehearsals at similar productions. The joke is the same as that used in the Gay/Pepusch prototype of the "Beggar's Opera": in this case Arne opens with "The Black Joke" (the tune being a vehicle for the bawdiest song written since the death of Thomas D'Urfey: see the notAmos edition of that song) treated in high style, and then proceeds to quote both "low" tunes and "high" (e.g. Handel organ concerto op.4 no.2). Some of these quotes are no more than brief allusions, e.g. the Cotillon (also used in the Beggar's Opera as "Youth's the season made for joys", bars 40 and 41).
This overture shares features with others published as a set of six (Charke, Lampe, Howard, Prelleur (2)): all are described in the frontispiece as being of seven parts; in practice oboe parts diverge from those of the violins only in exceptional circumstances, and the violins frequently merge. Thus any harmony in more than two parts is perfunctory. One gets an impression of scores catering for an ad hoc and fluid orchestra, for which volume was more important than aesthetic subtlety. That impression mirrors the accounts by Charlotte Charke (Charke's wife, and Arne's niece by marriage) in her entertaining if unreliable memoirs of a "strolling player".
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