Symphony no.2 - symphony orchestra 2010-14

1. Serioso
2. Intermezzo: Con moto ma grazioso
3. Molto Lento
4. Scherzo Malevolo: Nervoso, ansioso
5. The Ascent into the Empyrean: Transparent, simple

duration 45 minutes

This symphony had a long gestation. Repeatedly work was delayed and interrupted by other pieces, my day job, recordings etc., each time the thread taking some time to be re-found. It was composed alongside the Symphony of Roses which graudally overtook it to become my "no.1", if not in name. To draw out matters further, this piece was always destined to be something much larger in canvas than its twin brother. Eventually, though, as with many of my pieces, there came a moment of "spontaneous combustion", when for no obvious reason the writing took-off, becoming subconscious and self-driven. Thus, over the course of 2014, suddenly four of the five movements were completed.

This formal scheme is hardly original, being very much in the Mahlerian tradition - these matters are of no concern to me. It opens with a serious, clarion call on the massed woodwind. This alternates with somewhat smudged, "massive" textures over which appear two trumpets. These become ever more important to the work, playing fluid, sometimes virtuosic, ascending phrases. After this initial section the music becomes turbulent, stormy even before eventually, sapped of energy, it dies away in a somewhat deflated return of the opening idea.

The second and fourth movements are opposites. The former, an intermezzo, is light, open-sounding, undulating, and with a strong tonal feel; the latter is, by contrast, a dark, brooding, even at times disruptive scherzo. Between comes a slow movement, predominantly reflective, though with warmer surges of emotion. These are heralded by the two trumpets who fanfare to each other across the orchestra.

The finale, a calm after the storm, gently pulses with slowly eddying chordal patterns. Above this the two trumpets, now moved to a gallery or the side of the stage, gradually "acsend into the Empyrean", from where in the symphony's dying moments they float serenly into the distance.

In its medieval religious imagery, Bosch's Last Judgement shows an analagous journey: angel trumpets guiding souls through the world's terrors to a place of peace and rest.

Scoring: Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, 2 Bassoons, Contrabassoon, 4 Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (Triangle, Snare Drum, Bass Drum, Tubular Bells, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Celeste), Piano, Harp, Strings

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