All of Sebastian Fagerlund’s many orchestral works to date have descriptive titles referring to the mood or essence of the works, with the exception of Partita (2009) written for string orchestra and percussion. However this new orchestral work is simply titled Chamber Symphony (2020-21). For Fagerlund, the idea for a symphonic work came to mind as soon as the discussions started for his appointment as a residency artist for the Tapiola Sinfonietta and the offer of writing a related commission for a large-scale work. The Ottawa-based National Arts Center Orchestra (NACO) then joined the commission and will perform the Canadian Premiere in 2022/23.
According to Fagerlund, the concept of a symphony is related to both form and the way material is handled, and he emphasizes the “logically advancing and evolving structure” of a symphonic work. In the chamber symphony, this emerges in the strong internal context of the work, in how each movement reaches deeper into the world of the work, as if the inner essence of the music could be seen more closely. The tension between the long melodic line that starts the work and the faster musical material that interrupts it can also be considered a symphonic feature. Since writing the opera Autumn Sonata(2014-16), melody has taken an even more central role in Fagerlund’s music.
Fagerlund’s chamber symphony is a three-movement work where the movements follow each other without interruption. The symphony begins with a slow movement that starts with the melodic material that contains the core material of the work, in Fagerlund’s words, its “musical DNA,” which also returns and develops in the second and third movements. Contrasting fast-moving material interrupts the slow music twice before the melodic line really starts to evolve. The first time, this faster material is rhythmically powerful and syncopated, and the second time, an arpeggio-like flowing material. The encounters and developments of these two fast-moving musical materials then rise to the forefront in the fast second movement, which develops into a scherzo episode. According to Fagerlund, “it appears in the middle of the movement like a character that seems to momentarily take shape and then again evaporate.”
The culmination of the second movement is followed by a slow third movement. Fagerlund has said he is interested in a slow, almost imperceptible transformation, and that comes true in the concluding movement, where music begins to grow from a standstill toward new relationships between the basic musical materials, in Fagerlund’s words, “like musical components floating and rearranging in a new order.”
Kimmo Korhonen (Translation Edition Peters)