The premise of Promenade Overture took root years ago when the composer was caught off guard by Haydn’s delightful Farewell Symphony. This Haydn work is often used to end a concert because during the last movement the players gradually exit, leaving two violins to finish the symphony on a bare stage.
Since overtures usually begin concerts, a reverse of this procedure – the entrance of an orchestra while playing – became both an interesting idea and a compositional challenge.
Offstage brass announce the start of the work, with the trumpets playing the last five measures of the Farewell Symphony – backwards. This forms a fanfare announcing the promenade of performers, which starts with the piccolo, concludes with the tuba, and contains a variety of motives which eventually form a lyrical melody that is built to a climax by the full orchestra.
– John Corigliano