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.
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.
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