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Boosey & Hawkes

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Composer's Notes

This symphony was begun in London in May 1938, and its composition was completed at my brother Leon's cottage in Sussex at the end of August 1939. The orchestration was begun two weeks later on the blacked-out liner Aquitania, and was finished in Cincinnati, U.S.A. between October 1939 and February 1940.

First Movement-Andante, Allegro con anima

The Symphony opens with the first of two "moto" themes, both of which occur constantly in various guises throughout the work. They constitute the kernel of the symphony. The first subject has an ominous character. It is followed immediately by the second motto theme, a plaintive, wistful fragment, announced by the clarinet. A repetition of the first moto theme, followed by two animated chords for full orchestra, leads straight into the first subject proper, a melody for flute and oboe, with an undulating string accompaniment of which considerable use is made throughout the movement.

Some further repetition of the first moto theme and the full orchestra restates the first subject. A prolonged "bridge" passage, during which the trumpets recall fortissimo the first two measures of the first theme, leads, after some animated figuration in the strings, directly to the second subject of the movement, strenuously declaimed by horns to the accompaniment of strings and tenor drum. It is repeated fortissimo by the entire orchestra, whereupon a more tranquil mood supervences, and the development section is entered upon with a statement of the first subject in violas and cellos. A passionate building-up of the subject is followed by a restatement of the second moto theme by the clarinet, whereupon the bassoon intervenes with an animated version of the first moto theme and the atmosphere changes. After the movement reaches a climax in an upward surge of full orchestra, there is an abrupt silence. Here returns the first subject proper and with it the recapitulation section. The movement ends, after a final statement of the second moto theme by the flute, with the muted string "pizzicato", giving out pp a subdued reference to the motto theme with which it began.

Second Movement-Andante expressivo, ma con moto

The bass clarinet is heard alone in a moody soliloquy prefacing the principle subject of the Andante, given out by richly harmonized strings. The color becomes more tense by the addition of wind instruments, and the entrance of muted horns makes a brief climax. Then the rather sombre mood changes with the entry of a fluttering, capricious subject in which clarinet and flute play a marked role. Later a solo violin introduces a languid subject, developed immediately by full orchestra. A return to the theme by strings leads to the climax of the movement, after which the music returns to the capricious motive previously stated by clarinet and flute. The theme appears, this time played by muted cellos. A brief reference to the second moto theme in the flute, and the music dies away.

Third Movement-"Divertimento" Allegro vivo

Two abrupt, explosive measures, and flutes in their lowest register announce the principle theme over the accompaniment of a pattering side-drum. Clarinets, and later, violins take it up, and the music grows in volume until xylophone and woodwinds, to the accompaniment of the heavy string chords, blare it out with the utmost force. Suddenly, at the height of the rollicking lift, there intrudes the sinister first moto theme and the colour changes. Trumpet and trombone chords herald a trio section which features an insistent figure for lower strings and side drum. Over this figure clarinets and bassoons have a melody, later taken up by violins and English horn. A climax is reached, and the music sinks down to a repetition of the opening theme of the movement, whereupon the first part of the scherzo is repeated. There follows a brief coda in which, when it would seem the music must almost stop for lack of momentum, the full orchestra suddenly bursts into four measures which bring the movement to a violent and abrupt end.

Finale-Maderato-Alla Breve (con moto)

A lonely clarinet over a bass accompaniment soliloquizes on the wistful second motto theme. Almost imperceptibly, the violas in rapid cumulative passage is announced fortissimo by horns and lower strings as the principle subject of the finale.

A growling reference to the very first moto theme by the tuba is eclipsed by a triumphant brass fanfare whereupon the full orchestra triumphantly sings an extended version of the opening theme in the somewhat unusual time of 4-1, or four whole-notes to each measure. The music ebbs, and the principle subject is heard uneasily wandering through solo wind-instruments over a fluttering string accompaniment. A new and pleading melody is next announced by clarinet over a shifting harmonic accompaniment in the strings.

The melody, taken up by violins, rapidly attains great dynamic force, and twice rises to a strong climax in a short space of time. The trio of the "Divertimento" then reappears, and the music takes on a melancholy which is heightened by a solo oboe in quotation from the slow movement. The clarinet, in more optimistic soliloquy, succeeds in restoring the movement to its opening animation. A climax is reached with a full statement of the triumphant brass fanfare, capped by thunderous solo timpani strokes. The first moto theme now appears in the colors of a gay fugato, announced by second violins and clarinets. The music attains impetus, climaxed by a rapidly descending passage ending in a tremendous unison statement of this theme. But the outburst leads only to a tranquil restatement of the fanfare, scored for woodwinds and celesta, and gradually there emerges a slow, intensive version of the clarinet theme, which swells up into a passionate song for the full orchestra. It subsides, and in a final coda the fugato subject is heard in the violas. A spirit of elation gradually infuses the music as we hear in turn horns, trombones and trumpets proclaiming an extended and triumphant version of the formerly wistful second moto theme. The movement ends in a blare of full organ chords, chimes, and trumpet fanfares.

Eugene Goossens

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