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Edward Gregson

Publisher: Novello & Co

Symphony in two movements (2011)
This work was jointly commissioned by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and the National Youth Brass Band of Wales (with funding from Ty Cerdd – Music Centre Wales), to celebrate their 60th and 30th anniversaries respectively.
Work Notes
This work was jointly commissioned by the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and the National Youth Brass Band of Wales (with funding from T Cerdd - Music Centre Wales), to celebrate their 60th and 30th anniversaries respectively.
Publisher
Novello & Co Ltd
Category
Works for Band/Wind/Brass Ensemble
Sub Category
Brass Band
Year Composed
2011
Duration
17 Minutes
Availability
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Programme Note
Edward Gregson Symphony in two movements (2011)
Composer’s Note

The Symphony in two movements is my most substantial ‘abstract’ work for brass band to date. Structurally it is based on the form used by Beethoven in his final piano sonata (Op.111), which is in two movements only: a sonata-form allegro, followed by a theme and four variations. The opening Toccata is highly dramatic but compact, whilst still retaining the ‘traditional’ structural elements of exposition, development and recapitulation.

In contrast, the longer and more substantial second movement, Variations, is built around a theme and four variations. The slowly unfolding chorale-like theme accumulates both added note harmony and increasing instrumentation, whilst the four variations which follow are by turn mercurial (fast, starting with all the instruments muted), march-like (menacing, with short rhythmic articulations underpinning an extended atonal melody), serene (a series of ‘romances’ for solo instruments alongside echoes of the chorale) with an emerging theme eventually bursting into a climax of passionate intent; and finally a dynamic scherzo (concertante-like in its series of rapid-fire solos, duets, trios and quartets) with the music gradually incorporating elements of the main ideas from the first movement; thus it becomes a recapitulation for the whole work, reaching its peroration with a dramatic return to the very opening of the symphony in the ‘home’ tonality.

Much of the material of the symphony is derived from the opening eleven-note ‘row’, which contains various intervallic sets, and although the work is not serially conceived it does use some typical quasi-serial procedures, such as canons, inversions, and retrogrades. The symphony is both musically and technically demanding, as befits the nature and purpose of its commission.

© Edward Gregson 2013

  • Ensemble
    Black Dyke Band
    Soloist(s)
    Brett Baker (trombone)
    Conductor
    Nicholas and Robert Childs
    Doyen:
Performances
Date
Title
  • 12 APR 2014
    North American Brass Band Championships
    Grand Rapids Michigan, USA
  • 08 FEB 2014
    Norwegian National Championships
    Grieghalle, Bergen, Norway
  • 04 MAY 2013
    European Brass Band Championships
    Oslo Concert Hall
  • 27 JUL 2012
    Great Hall, Aberystwyth University, Wales
    National Youth Brass Band of Wales
    Nicholas Childs, conductor

    Other Dates:
    28 July - Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff
  • 07 APR 2012
    Symphony in two movements London Premiere
    Cadogan Hall, London
    National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain
    Bramwell Tovey, conductor
  • 06 APR 2012
    Winter Gardens, Weston-super-Mare, UK
    National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain
    Bramwell Tovey, conductor

Reviews
From the evidence of the first performances we heard in Weston and London, and the prolonged and enthusiastic responses from the audiences, Symphony in two movements is going to be a major and popular addition to the repertoire. [...] An impressive piece performed with total conviction.
Paul Hindmarsh, British Bandsman Magazine,4/12/2012
The opening ‘Toccata’ is thunderous, spiky and energetic (with the occasional echoes of Rawsthorne and Walton) and then a lyrical ‘second subject’ offers respite before tension and drive recall ‘Mambo’ from West Side Story. The longer second movement, ‘Variations’, begins with gleaming, sustained lines to which a scurrying response excites and leads to a gong-capped climax. Further, bluesy, explorations boil to a cloud-clearing fortissimo and a pulsating conclusion. This is a richly rewarding piece, music that is engaging and satisfying, and which challenges the young musicians, here gratefully taken. Indeed, in the course of this long evening every gauntlet thrown at the players was met in winning style either in terms of ensemble or solo contributions.
Colin Anderson, Classical Source,4/8/2012
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