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Giles Swayne

Publisher: Novello & Co

Symphony for Small Orchestra (1984)
commissioned by the English Chamber Orchestra
Novello & Co Ltd
Sub Category
Chamber Orchestra
Year Composed
25 Minutes
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Programme Note
Giles Swayne Symphony for Small Orchestra (1984)
Giles Swayne: Symphony For Small Orchestra Op. 37 (1984)

During the early '80s I became increasingly concerned about the remoteness, complexity, and general irrelevance of much contemporary music, and began experimenting with the use of a radically simplified language. This piece, which was first performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in June 1984, is in one continuous movement, and lasts about 24 minutes. It is scored for flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns and strings, with important solo parts for principal violin, viola and cello. The piece avoids all chromatic dissonance, and lies almost throughout in a modal A minor. Rhythmically it is both simple and elaborate - simple in that the pulse never alters, and there are almost no values other than crotchets and quavers, but complex because the patterns formed from these units are constantly shifting in length, and frequently superimposed upon each other.

As a result, although the score looks childishly easy to play, it is quite tricky to get together.
© Giles Swayne 1995

The music is written in the style of the Jola people from Senegal and the Gambia. It is one continuous 24-minute movement, scored for a sparse contingent of winds and strings. This work did not communicate in the same manner as Western symphonic music. Rhythmically, the work is complex for the interlocking nature of its parts, and at the heart of these seemingly written-down improvisations are the cherished values of improvisatory technique - spontaneity, creativity and continuously shifting shape.
Daniel Heslink, Sunday News, Lancaster, PA,13/11/2005
Giles Swayne's Symphony for Small Orchestra provided a whiff of exoticism.
Elizabeth Patton, Lancaster, PA, New Era,12/11/2005
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