• John McCabe
  • Symphony No. 7 'Labyrinth' (2007)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the BBC for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

  • 3(3=pic).2+ca.2+bcl.asx.3/4331/timp.3perc/str
  • 20 min

Programme Note

I grew up in Huyton and then the centre of Liverpool (just around the corner from the Philharmonic Hall), and one of my most potent memory images is of travelling by train into or out of Lime Street Station and going through what was then known as the Edge Hill Tunnel. Though the railway tunnel was not part of the system of caves and tunnels built in the early 19th century by the businessman and philanthropist Joseph Williamson (now known as the Williamson Caves), it was in the same area, and my abiding memory is of poking my head out of the train window and looking up one of the ventilation shafts and seeing, far overhead, a bird flying across the small square of visible blue sky.

'Labyrinth', my 7th Symphony, is in a sense a tribute for Liverpool’s 800th anniversary, and to the concept of a struggle towards the light from a dark labyrinth. The piece is continuous, beginning with a high piccolo solo and then tortuous cello and double bass lines, and gradually moving towards a faster tempo and an upward resolution. The melodic lines themselves are dominated by a sense of upward striving, and though the musical language I use is probably not a particularly difficult one, there are sections where the argument is quite tough and reflects the struggle behind the initial idea. The Symphony was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and first performed by them, conducted by Vasily Petrenko, on 14th September 2007 in the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.

© 2007 by John McCabe