The composer known conventionally as Franz von Suppe (1819-1895) was born to an Italian-Belgian father and a Viennese mother in Croatia, which was then part of the Kingdom of Dalmatia in the Austro-Hungarian empire. His full name befits his convoluted nationality: his parents named him Francesco Ezechiele Ermenegildo Cavaliere Suppé Demelli. His early musical training was in flute and singing. His parents pushed him to study law, but he continued his musical studies nonetheless. He eventually moved to Vienna to complete his studies and find work conducting in opera houses. He went on to compose over 100 works for the stage.
Light Cavalry is a two act operetta written in 1866. The story revolves around a troop of cavalry men who attempt to unite a young couple through many twists and turns. The overture has taken on a life of its own, much beyond operetta that spawned it. It is core repertoire for orchestras and bands everywhere.
There are all sorts of materials out there on Light Cavalry: a very thin Wikipedia article, program notes from the Amarillo Symphony, more from the Corpus Christi Symphony, a well-written walkthrough of sorts of the piece, and a collection of public domain scores of the piece.
Here’s the overture played by the Indiana University Summer Music Clinic Cream Band conducted by Stephen Pratt:
and now the original orchestral version, conducted by the legendary Herbert von Karajan:
Here’s another great arrangement for horn ensemble:
My first exposure to Light Cavalry came via this amazing Disney cartoon. Watch all the way to the end for something truly unique. Warning – you may wince in the meantime!