Symphony no.3 - symphony orchestra 2014-15

1. Moderato
2. Scherzando
3. Marcia Funebre: Grave
4. Moderato, serioso ed espansivo

duration 33 minutes

This symphony followed hard on the heels of the 2nd, taking up a discarded, fragmentary remnant as its starting point. The work is non-programmatic, though perhaps its third movement might seem to suggest otherwise. It follows in the Romantic "hero symphony" tradition.

The opening movement is gently paced with a feeling of light airiness gradually giving way to stronger sonorities and a more serious manner. However, this mood never really triumphs, or resolves, with the movement eventually dissolving away, somewhat enigmatically.

The following scherzo is rumbustuous and a little flat-footed in its humour, recalling the manner of my wind quintet Child's Play... (another of my "Breugel's children"!). Interrupting this "bonkiness" (as Robin Holloway christened it), two brief "trios" intervene - echoes of a distant world, half-remembered, with more shimmering, atmospheric sounds (solo horn, tremolandi strings and harp) - a little seascape, perhaps. However, the second of these is abruptly curtailed by a Pythonesque boot, leaving a few nervous fragments to scamper off.

We are next plunged into the seriousness of a funeral march. This features a solo trombone, trying to hold up its noble head amidst the slippery, sliding orchestral "smears" beneath it. Moments of delicate poignancy peep through but these are quickly and brutally crushed by the relentless, grinding forward motion of the procession. Almost at the last a little shaft of sunlight peeps through the clouds - a moment of redemption - before the music sinks grudgingly into silence.

The finale carries the central "weight of argument" in this work, rather than the traditional first movement. It seems, from the outset caught up in the flow of forces beyond its control, somewhat swept along in the cross-currents, eddying and swirling. The quest for resolution is, however, eventually satisfied with a tumultous, ecstatic, glittering climax - a resounding repost to the funereal depths that preceded it.

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, Marimba, Celeste, Tam-Tam), Harp, Strings

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