• John McCabe
  • Symphony for Ten Wind Instruments (1964)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Portia Ensemble

  • 2(pic; afl)2(ca)2(bcl)22000
  • 18 min

Programme Note

Allegro ; Lento; Vivo; Lento; Vivo; Lento

This work was commissioned by the Portia Ensemble, and first performed by them at the Wigmore Hall, London, in December 1964. It is entitled Symphony to indicate both the thematic approach and the rather orchestral nature of some of the scoring. Though played without a break, it is divided into six movements, three of which are subdivided further.

The first three movements are subtitled Tutti I, Soli I (flute and clarinet solos with chordal accompaniment) and Tutti II, and are fast, slow, and fast respectively. The next movement (Lento) is divided into three sections, headed Groups (reed instruments and non-reed instruments, at first separate groups, but coming together), Tutti III (the intense climax of the movement), and Trios (four short, quiet canonic trios, followed by three quiet chords which return later to close the work).

Next follows another tri-partite movement, the sections being headed Tutti IV (a fast 7/4 time), Contrasts (groups of high and low instruments opposed but quickly converging), and Tutti V (a slightly altered version of the opening Allegro). The last movement, marked Lento, is in two parts: first Soli II (which is a reworking, with horn and bassoon featured, of Soli I), and then Tutti VI, in which oboe and cor anglais have brief solos. This acts as a kind of Epilogue, and the work closes with an extended version of the quiet chords that ended the earlier section Trios.

© 2001 by John McCabe