Monthly Archives: April 2024

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.