• Colin McPhee
  • Symphony No. 2, Pastorale (1957)

  • Associated Music Publishers Inc (World)
  • 2222/4231/timp.perc/hp.pf/str
  • 22 min

Programme Note

Composer Note:

My Symphony No. 2 was composed in 1957. It is primarily a lyrical work, based largely on pentatonic scale forms, and making considerable use of Balinese melodic material collected during the years I spent on the island of Bali. The various melodies employed here no longer retain their original Balinese character. They serve primarily as motifs, as points of departure for the creation of a broader and more personal melodic line. The symphony is cyclic in form, consisting of three movements, which might be described as exposition, interlude and transformed restatement. The work is framed by the opening section of the first movement, which not only terminates the first movement, but forms the conclusion to the complete symphony.

Certain passages, notably toward the middle of the first movement, derive from the Balinese gamelan methods of orchestration, but for the most part I have sought a less exotic orchestral color, in which all the leading instruments intermittently are heard in expressive solo parts. Despite the title Elegy for the slow movement, the symphony has no program and is offered for its music values alone.

The first movement is impressionistic—color is withdrawn from what seems to be a mist-shrouded tonal painting, and the opening section, particularly, is an example of what George Copeland once called “white music.” A bright climax is quickly built up, but soon the mystery of the opening returns. The Elegy is too quiet, with short melodies and it goes without a break into the vigorous last movement. Here there is a definite drive forward which builds up menacingly, but the strong contours of the music begin to lose their outlines, and slink back into the mist, and the end reverts to the veiled quality of the opening of the Symphony, and finally the sound dies away in the notes held by two instruments only.

—Colin McPhee