Classical music finds the grand member of the equus less often than most would imagine but, when it does, the connection remains as a permanent musical dream, an overture to the horse.
So where do we begin a short story of the horse in the orchestra? It seems that the linkage between music and the horse is at its strongest in the Americas with the theme to The Lone Ranger, music by Aaron Copland, Morton Gould, John Williams with ‘War Horse’ and Randy Newman’s score to ‘Seabiscuit’.
But what about Europe? It may be with the Dalmatian born Austrian composer, Francesco Ezechiele Ermengildo Cavaliere di Suppé Demelli, one of the most famous (and eventually wealthy) composers of the era of the Viennese opera during the Austro-Hungarian empire. Composer of about 60 opera/operettas, he is most remembered today as composer of the Light Horse cavalry of which its overture. Von Suppé, as he chose to be known, was born close to 200 years ago then gradually fell out of traditional favour maybe once the grand years of Vienna declined. Yet some would say that it was the Americans who brought him his greatest word-wide fame in 1942 with the cartoon Symphony Hour put together by one of the greatest appreciators of classical music, Walt Disney.
Surely there must be a pure example in Europe of the horse in an overture. And most would have little difficulty in coming up with Rossini’s overture to his last opera, William Tell, or to be more exact the forth part of the overture, first perofrmed to rapturous audiences in 1829 in Paris. Today you can hear ita t many a racecourse or equestrian event, it is the theme for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It appears in famous scenes in movies, not the least of which is an infamous portrayal in Clockwork Orange. And of course, whether it be the Proms or the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, you are nearly sure to hear the ‘gallop’ from the overture.
But…… It was actually imaging the historic victory by the Swiss troops over Austria – a march …. And its fame spread worldwide through another American creation ‘The Lone Ranger’ radio and TV show, for which it was the theme music.