Commissioned in 2012 by Nederlands Dans Theater, Den Haag | Carolina Performing Arts at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | MUSIC • CENTER / Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County | The Norwegian Opera and Ballet, Oslo. First performance 4 October 2012 at Dr. Anton Philips Hall, The Hague by Nederlands Dans Theater and Residentie Orkest, conducted by Andrew Grams. Choreography by Medhi Walerski.
1. Allegro Insistente (11')
2. Adagio minaccioso (7'45)
3. Scherzando con malizia (6')
4. Adagio risoluto - allegro brutale (4'45)
Chamber Symphony is the score to a work that was devised in collaboration with choreographer Medhi Walerski titled 'Chamber', which was commissioned by Netherlands Dance Theatre and The Norwegian National Ballet. In our initial discussions about the piece, Medhi and I talked at length about the raw physicality of dancing and its relentless demands on the human frame. We wanted to make a piece that explores the limits of the dancers' physicality, seeing in this a parallel with the death of the sacrificial victim - the 'chosen one' - at the end of The Rite of Spring, who dances herself beyond exhaustion, to ultimate physical and emotional collapse. As I began to compose, I tried to find an equivalent in sound to the sight of bodies hurtling through space and to the sensations of pain and ecstasy that the human body experiences at the extremes of endurance.
The piece begins with a detonation of drums, strings, and piano, undercut by growling trombones and punctuated by needle-jabbing woodwinds. As the fuel for this initial detonation runs out, the music subsides into a turbulent throbbing pulse which periodically erupts into progressively more and more extreme outbursts of explosive energy. Eventually a crisis point is reached, and the feeling of something having been broken or irrevocably changed with which the movement ends leads us on into the second movement adagio, marked minaccioso or 'menacing'.
After a brief passage of tentatively optimistic music, a sense of brooding danger reasserts itself before the third movement scherzo returns us to the hectic pace of the opening. Here jagged little fragments of musical melody collide and bounce off each other in a game to which no one seems to know the rules. An abrupt cut-off veers us into a strangely haunting passage of double bass harmonics, and archaic-sounding brass and bells. A brief reassertion of the rule-less game is rudely interrupted by the intrusion of big slabs of visceral noise, a foretaste of the sledgehammer gestures of the brief and brutal finale.
Joby Talbot - London, January 2013