Francesco Pasquale Ricci: The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – No. II

This is the 2nd of the Periodical Overtures in 8 Parts which are being published in conjunction with Musikproduktion Höflich.

Listen here before heading over to musikproduktion höflich to obtain the score and parts.

Like most mid-eighteenth-century symphonies, Periodical Overture No. 2 is a three-movement, fast-slow-fast structure. The work opens in E-flat, moves to the relative minor in the second movement, and returns to E-flat for the finale. A surviving manuscript of Ricci’s composition, held in the National Library of the Czech Republic, contains two trumpet parts rather than horns, but it also lacks the central “Andante” movement, so it is unknown if Bremner altered the instrumentation of Ricci’s original score or worked from a different version of the symphony altogether.[1]

The first movement, “Vivace assai,” displays many of the elements that made the still-new genre of the symphony so exciting for listeners. Structured as a sonata form without repeated sections, its energy is apparent from the start, as steady “drum eighths” in common time propel the orchestra forward through shifting harmonies, as shown by the figured bass. Rapid contrasts between piano and forte create roller-coaster-like effects, while extended crescendos and measured tremolos also build drama. The first theme is filled with slurred pairs of neighboring notes, while the second theme (ms. 30) is much more staccato.

The brief C minor “Andante” seems almost mysterious at first: it is set in simple triple meter, reduces the ensemble to strings alone, and opens at a piano dynamic level. Like the first movement, however, it leaps suddenly to forte multiple times; it also offers back-to-back contrasts between motifs that use either staccato or legato articulations.

Unlike many early symphonies, the finale is not gigue-like but is instead a “Minuetto Grazioso,” retaining the triple meter of the “Andante” but returning to the E-flat major tonality of the first movement and restoring the horns and oboes to the ensemble. The first oboe is featured in several short passages, perhaps reflecting Ricci’s awareness of the new scoring trends originating in Mannheim. Despite the “minuet” designation, the architecture is a sonata form, with the treble and bass instruments pulling in opposite directions in the first theme. The second theme (ms. 17) brings back other elements of the “Vivace assai,” such as the drum eighths and measured tremolos, and its irregular phrase lengths further contradict the “dance” expectations of the movement’s title. Ricci seems to have been fully aware that he was creating music for the pleasure of a still-new social phenomenon: that of concert-goers.

Alyson McLamore


Coming soon…..

The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – Number III: Johann Stamitz