Le Corsaire Overture

From Wind Repertory Project
Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz (trans. Walter Beeler)

This work bears the designation Opus 21.

General Info

Year: 1856 / 1969
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Shawnee Press
Cost: Score and Parts – Out of print.

For availability information, see Discussion tab, above.


Full Score
Condensed Score
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Contralto Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Snare Drum


  • B-flat Clarinet, II m.321: Piano dynamic should read forte.
  • B-flat Cornet, II m.173, beat 4: A sharp should read A natural.
  • Drums, reh. 54: Add cut time meter signature.
  • Drums, reh. 342: Add 32nd note slashes to indicate roll.

Program Notes

After winning the Prix de Rome, Hector Berlioz traveled to Italy, during which he experienced a dangerous and stormy voyage from Marseille to Livorno. During his stay there, he learned that his fiancé had married another musician. Following a failed suicide attempt, he sketched the Corsair overture as he recuperated in Nice. Of his time in Italy, Berlioz wrote, “I followed the Corsair in his desperate adventures. I adored that inexorable yet tender nature – pitiless, yet generous – a strange combination, apparently contradictory feelings; love of woman and hatred of his kind. During the fierce summer here I used to spend whole days in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, comfortably established in a confessional, with Byron as my companion. I sat enjoying the coolness and stillness, unbroken by any sound save the splashing of the fountains outside. And there, at my leisure, I sat drinking in that burning poetry.”

He originally titled the overture The Tower of Nice, and it was premiered in Paris under Berlioz’ direction on January 9, 1845, under that name. During a visit to London in 1851-1852, he revised it and retitled it Le Corsair rouge.

- Program Note from Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music

This exciting orchestra showpiece, superbly transcribed, requires the utmost in facility and virtuosity in the fast sections and sustained legato, tonal beauty and phrasing in the slow section occurs near the beginning. Despite the difficulties, this is a wonderful work that is deserving of more frequent performance.

- Program Note adapted from Music for Concert Band


None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

  • Florida: VI
  • Louisiana: V
  • Maryland: VI
  • Tennessee: VI


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by this Composer


  • Berlioz, H.; Beeler, W. (1969). Le Corsaire Overture [score]. Shawnee Press: Delaware Water Gap, Penn.
  • Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. "Hector Berlioz." Accessed 8 September 2015
  • Krienes, J.; Hansbrough, R. (2014). Music for Concert Band: A Selective Annotated Guide to Band Literature. Meredith Music Publications: Delray Beach, Fla.; pp. 92.