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Overture to "Candide" (tr Grundman)

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Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein (trans. Clare Grundman)

General Info

Year: 1955 / 1986
Duration: c. 4:40
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Hal Leonard
Cost: Score and Parts - $90.00   |   Score Only - $19.99


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass 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
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Snare Drum
  • Tenor Drum
  • Triangle
  • Xylophone


In Parts:

  • Piccolo, m.223, last 8th note: Should be F; last quarter note should be E-flat.
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone I, m.218: beat 3: Quarter note should be a G.

Program Notes

Overture to Candide can be deceptive; on the surface it is a jovial, straightforward concert opener, yet the musical challenges it presents reflect compositional sophistication. Bernstein manipulates time to eradicate a sense of regular downbeats. While exciting for audiences, this technique requires an ensemble capable of exceptional metronomic control. High school and collegiate ensembles can have success with this work, although younger ensembles should expect a need for more preparation time than normally expected of a four-and-a-half minute piece.

- Note from Great Music for Wind Band

Candide was Leonard Bernstein’s third Broadway musical, following On the Town and Wonderful Town. Adapted by Lillian Hellman from Voltaire’s 18th-century satire on blind optimism, Bernstein’s Candide is an operetta set in the castle of the Baron Thunder-ten-Tronckh in the mythical European land of Westphalia. Within these walls live the Baron and Baroness; Cunégonde, their beautiful and innocent virgin daughter; Maximilian, their handsome son; Candide, their handsome bastard nephew; and Paquette, the Baroness’ buxom serving maid. They are taught by Dr. Pangloss, who preaches the philosophy that all is for the best in “The Best of All Possible Worlds.”

Candide and Cunégonde kiss, and Candide is banned from Westphalia. As he leaves, Bulgarians invade, kidnap him and slaughter everyone except for Cunégonde, who they prostitute out to a rich Jew and the Grand Inquisitor. Candide escapes and begins an optimistic, satirical journey, taking with him his sweetheart Cunégonde and Pangloss. Candide journeys to Lisbon, Paris, Buenos Aires, and even the legendary El Dorado, only to discover reality in the forms of crime, atrocity, and suffering. He returns to Venice with Cunégonde, stripped of his idealism. His ultimate emotional maturation concludes in the finale with “You’ve been a fool, and so have I, But come and be my wife, And let us try before we die, To make good sense of life. We’re neither pure nor wise nor good; We’ll do the best we know; We’ll build our house, and chop our wood, And make our garden grow.”

Opening on Broadway on December 1, 1956, Candide was perhaps a bit too intellectually weighty for its first audiences and closed after just 73 performances. Bernstein was less concerned over the money lost than the failure of a work he cared about deeply. The critics had rightly noted a marvelous score, and Bernstein and others kept tinkering with the show over the years. With each revival, Candide won bigger audiences. In 1989, the already seriously ill Bernstein spent his last ounces of vital energy recording a new concert version of the work. “There’s more of me in that piece than anything else I’ve done,” he said.

The sparkling overture captures the frenetic activity of the operetta, with its twists and turns, along with Candide’s simple honesty. From the very beginning, though, the overture was a hit and swiftly became one of the most popular of all concert curtain raisers. Brilliantly written and scored, flying at breakneck speed, it pumps up the adrenaline of players and listeners alike. It features two of the show’s big tunes: the sweeping romantic one is Candide’s and Cunégonde’s love duet “Oh Happy We,” while the wacky up-tempo music is from Cunégonde’s fabulous send-up of coloratura soprano arias, “Glitter and Be Gay.”

- Program note by San Luis Obispo Wind Orchestra concert program, 12 May 2012

Leonard Bernstein always said he wanted to write “the Great American Opera.” He probably came closest with Candide (1956), which he labeled “a comic operetta.” Based on Voltaire’s satirical novel of 1759, it chronicles the misadventures of Candide, a naive, pure-hearted youth, and his much more tough-minded sweetheart, Cunégonde.

- Program Note from University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Wind Ensemble concert program, 21 April 2016


State Ratings

  • Florida: FBA Band Grade VI
  • Georgia: GA Band Grade VI
  • Louisiana: BAND 2011 GRADE V
  • Minnesota: Category 1
  • Mississippi: MS BAND CLASSES 4A, 5A, & 6A
  • North Carolina: Concert Band.Grade VI
  • New York: 20 06 CONCERT BAND LEVEL VI
  • South Carolina: SC Band Grade VI
  • Tennessee: Grade VI
  • Texas: Band Grade V.Complete
  • MusicFest Canada: B600


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) Symphonic Band (Rose Craig Tyler, conductor) -- 28 February 2023
  • Toronto (Ont., Can.) Youth Wind Orchestra (Colin Clarke, conductor) - 26 February 2023
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Darren Y. Lin, conductor) - 5 February 2023
  • Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) Wind Ensemble (Jeffrey E. de Seriere II, conductor) - 16 October 2022
  • University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Wind Ensemble (Christopher Knighten, conductor) – 3 October 2022
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) Wind Ensemble (Eric Scott, conductor) - 22 April 2022
  • H.B. Plant High School (Tampa, Fla.) Wind Ensemble (Brian Dell, conductor) – 24 February 2022 (CBDNA 2022 Southern Conference, Columbia, S.C.)
  • California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Wind Ensemble (Christopher J. Wodruff, conductor) – 30 October 2021
  • Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.) Symphonic Winds (Todd Nichols, conductor) - 14 October 2021
  • Messiah University (Mechanicsburg, Penn.) Wind Ensemble (James Colonna, conductor) – 22 April 2021
  • Texas Christian University (Fort Worth) Wind Ensemble – 3 December 2020 (Virtual)
  • Ohio University (Athens) Wind Symphony (William Talley, conductor) – 15 November 2020
  • Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) Wind Ensemble (Leon Kuehner, conductor) – 18 October 2020
  • Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) Wind Ensemble (Shawn Crawford, conductor) – 13 March 2020
  • East Tennessee State University (Johnson City) Wind Ensemble (Christian Zembower, conductor) – 3 March 2020
  • Ohlone Wind Ensemble (Fremont, Calif.) (Tony Clements, conductor) – 20 October 2019
  • University of Texas, Arlington, Wind Symphony (Douglas Stotter, conductor) – 20 September 2019
  • University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) Summer Band (Barry Houser, conductor) - 27 June 2019
  • Southwest Washington (Vancouver) Wind Symphony (Gerard Morris, conductor) – 19 May 2019
  • Blythewood (S.C.) High School Wind Symphony (Quintus Wrighten, conductor) - 4 May 2019
  • Genesee Valley Wind Ensemble (Batavia, N.Y.) (Philip J. Briatico, conductor) – 27 April 2019

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

  • Cool (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Murtha) (1957/2018)
  • West Side Story (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Sweeney) (1957/2015)

All Wind Works