The overture to Candide, a cleverly designed potpourri of some of the show’s best tunes that Leonard Bernstein rescored for full orchestra, quickly became its composer’s most popular orchestral work. It was performed over two hundred times in the first two years after its publication and remains a concert favourite.
Bernstein’s energetic rhythmic style was perfectly suited to the text. One would have to go back to Rossini to find an overture that so completely captures the sense of fun that will follow. Mozart would have easily recognized the form of the work. It opens with a short fanfare and then delivers a succession of themes at breakneck speed. The traditional lyric second theme comes from Candide’s second act duet with his loved one, Cunegonde. The principal themes are brought back and then, in another bow toward Rossini, Bernstein builds a gradual crescendo out of a repeated figure based on the work’s best-known soprano aria, “Glitter and Be Gay.” All of the themes join in a riotous conclusion.
Surrey Brass performs this piece in an arrangement by Jonathan Spencer.
Candide, by Voltaire was 18th century Europe’s most famous novel, written in three inspired days in 1759, entitled ‘Candide – or Optimism’.
Candide is characterized by its tone as well as by its erratic, fantastical, and fast-moving plot, which is certainly reflected in the famous overture. Candide, who is living a sheltered life in paradise and being indoctrinated with optimism by his mentor, Professor Pangloss. Hope was a disease and it was Voltaire’s generous goal to try to cure us of it. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this lifestyle, followed by Candide's slow and painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships and evil in the world.
If there was one central target that its author wanted satirically to destroy, it was the hope of his age, a hope that centred around science, love, technical progress and reason. Voltaire was enraged.
Of course science wasn’t going to improve the world; it would merely give new power to tyrants.
Of course philosophy would not be able to explain away the problem of evil; it would only show up our vanity.
Of course love was an illusion; power a chimera, humans irredeemably wicked, and the future absurd. Of all this his readers were to be left in no doubt.
Voltaire concludes Candide by advocating a deeply practical precept, "we must cultivate our garden", in lieu of the mantra of Pangloss, "all is for the best" in the "best of all possible worlds".
In a 2018 performance survey, Leonard Bernstein was the third-most played composer for the year, alongside Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and Brahms, taking a top spot among the perpetual greats.
Four of the five most-played concert works in 2018 were Bernstein Compositions, with Overture to Candide holding the number 2 spot, just behind Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.