Additional Information

In composing this symphony I wanted to strip away certain conventions of recent symphonic and orchestral writing, and my musical inspiration has come partly from earlier symphonic compositions (such as Haydn’s) in which there is a freshness of idea and form, as well as from an aesthetic that reaches back into baroque music.

The overall shape of the five movements is a departure from the idea of the symphony as a personal journey, into a more ambiguous and heterogeneous approach. There is no overall context/viewpoint into which ideas are inserted and transformed, and no development. Everything is small scale. Rather like Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist passages come and go but without a sense of clear logic.

The music explores the relationship between context and illusion, something I’ve examined in a number of recent pieces. At the background of my thoughts when writing this work was the figure of the saltimbanque (‘street entertainer’); a character that has cropped up in the works of many artists and writers, including Rilke, Kafka, Picasso, Baudelaire, Daumier, Banville, and others.

In order to generate the structures that I wanted it was necessary to use material that was clear and that communicated, but that also undermines itself at times – for example, the opening movement unfolds with a degree of continuity, but that is undone at bar 45. Throughout the five movements ideas come and go in a fashion that refuses to verify any settled context and creates twists and turns. And the surprise 5th movement wrenches the symphony out of itself into a fresh perspective, which itself is something of a ‘performance’.

This is music of acrobats, jugglers, entertainers and actors, and of the musicians who wander through the paintings of Watteau, arriving in mysterious ways within dimly lit parks and gardens. There are no profound conclusions, only an experience of beauty and strangeness.



Composers Edition
Score file