Category Archives: The Periodical Overtures in 8 Parts

Pietro Maria Crispi: The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – No. V

This is the fifth installment  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.

Although Crispi’s overture is scored for the customary “eight parts” that comprised the majority of works of Bremner’s series, the winds are not given truly independent material. In fact, whenever the oboes play, they double one or both of the violin parts almost without fail. On a few occasions, they play sustained pitches while the higher strings present measured tremolos or oscillating patterns. Similarly, the horns customarily play a simplified version of material drawn from various string parts; they are never featured on their own. Moreover, as is the case in over half of the Periodical Overtures, the ensemble is reduced to strings alone in the middle movement.

The first movement introduces Crispi’s fondness for sharp dynamic contrasts. Structured as a sonata-rondo form in common time, the cheerful “Allegro Spiritoso” opens with a principal theme that returns in the tonic D major at m. 60 and again at m. 99. Curiously, the opening theme consists of two six-bar phrases in its first two appearances, but it is truncated to five-measure phrases in its final statement. Although Crispi was not a member of the Mannheim school of composers, various devices associated with that influential mid-century ensemble appear throughout the movement, such as the measured tremolos in m. 17 and onward, the “drum 8ths” in the low strings beginning in m. 3, or the oscillating Bebung gestures that launch each occurrence of the second theme (mm. 37, 57, 88, etc.).[1] In comparison to the robust principal melody, the secondary theme seems wispier and much less substantial. Its phrase lengths are also modified in its successive re-appearances.

The central “Andantino”—a thirty-six-measure ternary structure with a codetta extension, set in the dominant key of A major—again displays Crispi’s penchant for variable phrasing. During the opening section, he shifts between short motifs that start on the downbeat and phrases that begin at other points of the duple-meter measure, keeping listeners slightly off-balance. The B section (m. 12), in E major, sustains a quiet dynamic level, contrasting with the final A section (m. 20) in which Crispi again plays with subito dynamic contrasts.

The closing “Allegro assai” returns to D major but is a bit more adventurous in its harmony. The first half of this gigue-like finale (in 3/8 time) resembles a conventional sonata-form exposition, presenting a first theme in the tonic, then moving to the dominant A major for both a second theme (m. 17) and a closing theme (m. 28). After the repetition of the exposition, the first theme is heard in A, and shifts abruptly to a repetition in the tonic minor (m. 45). (Crispi uses a favorite device—a rapidly descending five-note scale—to transition to this surprising key.) A short rising sequential passage leads to the second (m. 61) and closing themes (m. 72), set in the expected D major. As with the preceding movements, Crispi delights in echo effects achieved by sudden dynamic changes.

We do not know if Bremner issued the Periodical Overtures simply in the order that he acquired them, or if he planned the way that the early symphonies would be grouped in their respective sets of six. If he did follow some scheme, it is tempting to regard Periodical Overture No. 5 as the lighter, scherzo-like “relief” before the subsequent Periodical Overture No. 6 by Johann Stamitz, which, in performance, is triple the length of Crispi’s contribution. Still, Crispi incorporated various moments of flair in his treatment of phrasing, dynamics, and harmony, and the appeal of his sole representation in Bremner’s series should encourage musicians to seek out his many other surviving compositions.

Alyson McLamore

[1] Hugo Riemann, ed., Sinfonien der pfalzbayerischen Schule (Mannheimer Symphoniker), in Year 7, Vol. II, of Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Bayern, in Series 2 of Denkmäler deutscher Tonkunst (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1906), xvii.


Anton Fils (Filtz): The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – No. IV

This is the fourth installment  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.

In The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts, No. IV, Fils’s colorful orchestration is apparent from the opening measures of the “Allegro.” The upper strings launch a vigorous measured tremolo in cut-time, emphasized by a loud tonic E-flat from the horns, while the lower strings play a quarter-note motif that arpeggiates the tonic chord. The flutes soon rise above the mass of sound with a light-hearted motif that starts slowly but ends with a flurry of sixteenth notes. The upper strings get a brief respite from their nearly continuous tremolos during the quiet start of the second theme (m. 29), but forte tremolos resume four bars later in the second violins, the violas, and the cellos/basses. Above them, the first violins play a series of staccato climbing arpeggios punctuated by flute flourishes. Numerous members of the ensemble race through upward scales during the closing theme at m. 45.

Fils crafts an unconventional form with these materials. The simple quarter-note arpeggio from mm. 1-2 is thrust into prominence in an imitative duet that launches the movement’s second half in m. 59. After considerable harmonic wandering, Fils restates the second theme at m. 128, now in the tonic E-flat, but only four measures of the theme are heard before the noisier closing-theme scales return (m. 132). James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy would likely call this structure a “Type II Sonata,” in which the first theme’s material—bravely represented by the tiny quarter-note motif—is heard only in the dominant during the second section.[1]

Although the “Andante” shares many features with the “Allegro”—the key of E-flat, the Type II sonata form—the mood is completely different. It is a soothing interlude of gentle appoggiaturas, far removed from the muscular tremolos of the first movement. The horns are tacet throughout, and the flutes are silent for the first ten bars. However, in mm. 15 and 17, when the unison strings play forte sextuplets, the flutes respond with short interjections, and they then embellish the string melody in much of the second half of the movement.

Since Bremner omitted the minuet, the overture shifts gears to the rapid-fire “Presto,” again in E-flat major. Fils’s Mannheim affiliation is clear in various regards: the first theme repeatedly includes the quick rising-and-falling motif known as the Bebung, while the lower strings accompany with steady “drum 8ths.”[2] After a stretch of measured tremolos (m. 13 and onward), a brief tutti silence signals the second theme (m. 32) in the dominant key, featuring the violins and flutes in what jazz musicians might call “trading fours.” The violins and flutes then jointly present the closing theme at m. 50, a series of rising scales harmonized in thirds. In the manner of a Type II sonata form, the second half of the finale repeats the three themes but reverses their tonal centers: the first theme (m. 70) remains in the dominant, while the second (ms. 122)  and closing themes (ms. 140) both shift to the tonic. The “Presto” is an exhilarating whirl, and listeners are likely to agree with Fils’s peers in regretting that he did not live a longer life.

Alyson McLamore

[1] James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 353–4.

[2] Hugo Riemann, ed., Sinfonien der pfalzbayerischen Schule (Mannheimer Symphoniker), in Year 7, Vol. II, of Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Bayern, in Series 2 of Denkmäler deutscher Tonkunst (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1906), xvii.

Johann Stamitz: The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – No. III

This is the 3rd 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.

In Periodical Overture No. 3, Bremner made his first major structural change to a pre-existing work: he completely eliminated the third movement—a minuet and trio—that had appeared in both the (earlier) Parisian and Amsterdam prints. In fact, Stamitz had been in the first wave of composers to add that dance to their symphonic works. Nevertheless, English audiences seem to have been slower than their continental counterparts to embrace the expansion of symphonies into the four-movement “sonata cycle” model, so Bremner arbitrarily trimmed Stamitz’s symphony by 25%, apparently to bring it more in line with British taste. Since Stamitz had died even before Huberty’s print appeared, Bremner would have been unable to seek the composer’s consent to the change, but since international copyright laws did not yet exist, it is doubtful that Bremner would have felt any need to obtain permission.

Bremner’s three-movement version of the symphony had a wide reach. In 1768, five years after its publication, records show that it was performed twice during concerts of the Edinburgh Musical Society (on 4 March and 15 July). It was played again the next year, on 17 February and 8 December; twice in 1770; again on 27 November 1778; thrice in 1781; two times in 1782; three times each in 1783 and in 1784; and once again in 1785.[1] Also in 1785, when the Moravians founded a community in Fairfield, England, Stamitz’s Periodical Overture No. 3 was among the works in their music library.[2] It may have been the unnumbered “Periodical Symphony” by Stamitz that closed the second act of a 1771 concert in Boston, Massachusetts, although Bremner had issued five other works by Stamitz before that point, any of which could have been the symphony in the concert listing.[3] The simple fact that Bremner rapidly published six Stamitz symphonies within the first year of his series also suggests that the initial issue had enjoyed strong sales. Moreover, a sticker on the British Library’s copy of the overture indicates that it had been sold at Welcker’s Musick Shop on Gerrard Street, St. Ann’s, in Soho.[4] It seems unlikely that a music retailer would carry a rival printer’s publication unless it was in high demand.

An interesting feature of Periodical Overture No. 3 is that it is a very early example of a cyclic symphony. All three of its movements incorporate a motif drawn from a Czech Christmas carol, “Nesem vám noviny,” sung in German as “Kommet, ihr Hirten” and adapted in English as “Bells Ringing in the Tower” and “Come, All Ye Shepherds.”[5] A repeated motif in the last phrase of the carol …  lends its contour to various moments in the overture: in the woodwinds in ms. 10, 12, 14, and elsewhere in the first movement; in ms. 24, 25, and so forth in the “Larghetto”; and in augmentation at the start of the finale (ms. 2-3 and 6-7). Moreover, Stamitz designated the first movement as a “Pastorale Presto,” thus linking his symphony to a popular Nativity custom of writing “pastorella” works for performance in the Christmas season, often in church.[6]

Stamitz structured the quadruple-meter first movement in the pattern that James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy call a “Type II Sonata.”[7] The movement begins with a conventional exposition in D major; it transitions to the dominant A major and introduces a second theme at ms. 35 and a closing theme at ms. 47. However, when the first theme, filled with soft “drum 8ths” and a series of imitative descents, reappears in ms. 66, it is also in A major. The return to the tonic key (ms. 104) coincides with the recapitulation of the closing theme. That third theme is followed by the second theme (ms. 120) as well as an additional statement of the closing theme at ms. 132. The first theme does not return in the tonic key at all, and the movement ends at a pianissimo, reflecting its unconventionally quiet opening.[8]

Although the triple-meter “Larghetto” (in the subdominant key of G major) also starts quietly, it features numerous sudden piano—forte contrasts (and vice versa), reflecting the Mannheim taste for distinctive dynamic variety. Like the opening movement, it employs a Type II sonata pattern, this time with repeated sections in a ||: 1st theme/I – 2nd theme/V :||: 1st theme/V– 2nd theme/I :|| progression.

In contrast to the quiet openings of the first two movements, the “Vivace” in D Major begins at a vigorous forte and with a unison premier coup d’archet.[9] The finale conforms to a model sonata-form in a bouncy 6/8 meter. Richard Will suggests that this lively gigue-like conclusion supports the “glorifying and praising God” that concludes the St. Luke account of the Nativity story.[10] Even without a religious connotation, Periodical Overture No. 3 presents a well-unified yet varied listening journey.

Alyson McLamore

[1] Jenny Burchell, Polite or Commercial Concerts?: Concert Management and Orchestral Repertoire in Edinburgh, Bath, Oxford, Manchester, and Newcastle, 1730–1799, Outstanding Dissertations in Music from British Universities, ed. by John Caldwell (New York: Garland Publishing, 1996), 310–344 passim.

[2] Karl Kroeger, “An Unknown Collection of Eighteenth-Century Instrumental Music,” Fontes Artis Musicae 35, no. 4 (October–December 1988): 277, 280.

[3] O. G. Sonneck, Early Concert-Life in America (1731–1800) (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1907), 262.

[4] British Library, g.474.n.(3).

[5]; Eugene K. Wolf, The Symphonies of Johann Stamitz: A Study in the Formation of the Classic Style (Utrecht: Bohn, Scheltema & Holkema, 1981), 303.

[6] Richard Will, The Characteristic Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Beethoven, New Perspectives in Music History and Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 86.

[7] James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 353–4.

[8] Wolf, The Symphonies of Johann Stamitz, 303.

[9] David D. Boyden and Peter Walls, “Coup d’archet,” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed., ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan, 2001), Vol. 6: 579.

[10] Will, The Characteristic Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Beethoven, 90.


Coming soon…..

The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – Number IV: Anton Filtz

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

Johann Christian Bach: The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – No. I

I am very excited to introduce the first of the 61 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.

The structure of the Periodical Overture No. 1 reflects the close kinship between Italian operatic overtures, or sinfonie, and early symphonies. It is in three movements, in a typical fast-slow-fast tempo arrangement, and the middle movement is in the key of G, the subdominant of the outer movements’ D major tonality. Although (the publisher) Bremner would eventually exceed the “eight parts” limit in some of the later items in the series, he eliminated the trumpet and timpani parts from Bach’s operatic version. As would be true in all of Bremner’s Periodical Overtures, the bass is figured.

The first movement also reflects many features of the newer “Mannheim” taste. It is marked “Allegro con Spirito” and presents a striking unison arpeggiated passage after a bold hammer chord. The eighth-note rhythms of the opening soon yield to sixteenths, reflecting the principle of increasing animation; the lower strings frequently perform “drum eighths” as part of the first theme’s steady propulsion through two- and four-bar phrases. The second theme at ms. 29, in A major, drops to piano and features more polyphonic interweaving of lines; the winds frequently play sigh motives. After a series of sudden dynamic contrasts, Bach’s closing theme (ms. 39) again opens at piano with the upper strings playing “tip-toe” passages in thirds.

Structurally, the “Allegro con spirito” is a sonata form without a development, which James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy call a “Type I Sonata.”[1] Therefore, while the first theme is heard in A major beginning in ms. 46, it immediately jumps back to the tonic D major in ms. 50, followed by the second theme and closing theme in measures 69 and 80.

The “Andante,” like the first movement, is in common time, and has been called “elegantly poised.”[2] The ensemble is reduced to strings alone, but there is again a strong opening chord, followed by numerous sudden dynamic contrasts. The “B” theme, starting in ms. 9, is peppered with numerous Scotch snaps. The movement’s architecture is a rounded binary form, with the “A” theme returning in ms. 21. The subsequent coda (ms. 28) continues the contrasting dynamics, but gives the low strings occasional pedal tones on the tonic G.

The “Allegro assai” follows the popular trend of a gigue-like finale. Set in 3/8 time, it has the customary disjunct bounciness of a jig. It also is tied to the opening movement by means of a unison arpeggiated opening, again in a descending direction. Like the slow movement, it is in rounded binary form, with its opening melody returning in ms. 45. Bach brings the movement—and the overture—to an emphatic close by repeating the tonic chord thirteen times in the last five bars. Periodical Overture No. I gave the public a very fine introduction to Bach’s instrumental prowess as well as a promising indication of the quality of future items in Bremner’s series.

Alyson McLamore

[1] James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the Late-Eighteenth-Century Sonata (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 345.

[2] Ernest Warburton, program booklet commentary for Johann Christian Bach, Opera Overtures Vol. 1, The Hanover Band, conducted by Anthony Halstead, CO 999129-2, compact disc, 17.


Coming soon….

The Periodical Overture in 8 Parts – Number II: Francesco Ricci