Tag Archives: classical

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.

Westron Wynde



Duration: 8’45”

Scored for four clarinets, organ, piano and strings, Westron Wynde is is a contemplation derived from the Sanctus from John Sheppard’s mass of the same name. The music unfolds across three panels and depicts a vast empty landscape. Two brief extracts from Sheppard’s Sanctus can be heard as the music progresses, the first stated by the clarinets, the second, at a distance, by a string quartet.



for String Orchestra

Duration 8′

Originally written for string quartet, Mesto is a study in melancholy. Using a diatonic palette, the strings pivot around a central harmony with the upper and lower parts mirroring one another as they expand outwards from the centre.

Score and parts available for purchase or hire

Priest – Mesto (sample)

Altopiano (Chamber Ensemble Version)

October 2020

Duration: 5’15”

2 clarinets in Bb, violin, violoncello, pianoforte


This is music for the spaces between breaths, for the moments when the world slows and introspection reigns. Let it wash over you, a balm for the restless soul, a refuge for the weary mind. Each note, a falling leaf, a sigh on the wind, weaving a spell of serenity around the listener. Close your eyes, and let the music carry you away on a tide of peaceful reflection to a sanctuary for the wandering mind, a haven for the restless heart. Step inside, and allow the music to cradle you in its gentle embrace. 

Score available here

Parts available on request


For two clarinets and small string orchestra, Altopiano is a quiet meditative piece.

Instrumentation – 2 clarinets in Bb, violins (6), violas (2), violoncellos (2) and double bass (1)

Duration – circa 5 minutes

Composition July – August 2020

Score and parts available on request

BarnabyPriest · Altopiano