Symphony No. 3 (1995),
Dennis Russell Davies, the new music director of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, asked for music specifically for the ensemble. The only suggestion he made, however, was an important one. Since there are 19 string players, he asked me to think about a piece using them all as individual (or solo) players.
The work fell naturally into a four-movement form and even given the nature of the ensemble and solo writing, seems to have the structure of a true symphony, though in the core it is the symphony for strings.
The opening movement, a quiet, moderately paced piece, functions as prelude to movements two and three, which are the main body of the symphony. The second movement mode of fast-moving compound meters explores the textures from unison to multi-harmonic writing for the whole ensemble. It ends when it moves without transition to a new closing theme, mixing a melody and pizzicato writing. The third movement is in the form of a chaconne, a repeated harmony sequence. It begins with three celli and four violas, and with each repetition new voices are added until, in the final movement, all 19 players have been woven into the music. The fourth movement, a short finale, returns to the closing theme of the second movement which quickly re-integrates the compound meters from earlier in that movement. A new closing theme is introduced to bring the symphony to its conclusion.
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