Symphony no.5 - Sea of Life - symphony orchestra 2019-21

duration 18 minutes

Unlike its predecessors this work runs in one continuous movement. It took as its starting point a painting by my late wife, the artist Marcelle Seabourne, called "Sea of Life": a semi-abstract work depicting a turbulent seascape.

Begun in 2019 it was held in limbo, some four minutes in, for two years during my wife's terminal illness. Unsure whether to revive it, even if I could re-enter and complete it after such a long gap, it did indeed progress initially quite slowly. However, warming to the task it then flowed with some ease - perhaps the whole process in some way mirroring the essential concept. This was to be a work of great energy and movement with perhaps something of "The Inextinguishable" about it, reflecting the unbreakable spirit of my wife, in both her life and her art, as she succumbed only bodily to cancer.

I wanted to create a less obvious structure, so the symphony is sectional rather than being simply "four joined movements in one". The piece open boldly with great animation and surge - we are already at sea, buffeted by waves and wind - the voyage is underway. A more Mahlerian, lyrical section follows (akin to a second subject), but the flow is disrupted by an alla turca idea - not really a march but something foreboding is certainly approaching. Further episodes follow from lightly bubbling to warmly summatory before the opening material returns. A slower-moving climax develops but the music abruptly turns a corner into a scurrying scherzo, with occasional uncomfortable though brief encounters with the Turkish band. A great bubbling swell takes the music into a calmer, more contemplative oasis. This gradually builds once more into a full bodied moment of arrival, but it is cut short as a rough-edged amalgamation of scherzo and turca returns, tumbling headlong into a final reprise of the very opening music and a glittering, exultant final invictus.

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, Cymbals, Suspended Cymbal, Celeste, Tam-Tam), Harp, Piano, Strings

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