Commissioned by The Feeney Trust for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

  • 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4331/timp.perc/hp.cel/str
  • 29 min

Programme Note

1st Movement: Allegro moderato
2nd Movement: Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
3rd Movement: Lento
4th Movement: Allegro

My Second Symphony was originally written in 1976/7 in response to a commission from the Feeney Trust of Birmingham. Recently, I decided to make a revised version which I completed in 1976. It is this that has been used for the present recording. My reasons for the revision were chiefly connected with scoring; I was much preoccupied at the time I originally wrote it with keeping the various orchestral colours distinct. Later, I felt that I had overdone this and that the work would gain from a freer and more robust treatment. I have introduced no new thematic material in the revised version, though certain passages have been somewhat extended.

The opening (Lento) is quiet and sombre but immediately outlines the motifs on which the first movement is based; it is only sixteen bars long and leads, without a break, into the Allegro which follows the classical first movement pattern fairly closely, everything being derived from the themes hinted at but not fully developed in the introduction. Towards the end is a recapitulation which is a much shortened version of the exposition, leading back to a restatement of the Introduction which now brings the movement to an end.

The Scherzo has its main idea a lively rhythmical figure which gives way in due course to a broader, more melodic section, occupying the position of the "Trio” in a classical work. After this, the tempo of the Scherzo is resumed but the themes now appear in a different order; the rhythm of the principal motif however is never far away and can now be heard as part of the accompaniment to the other themes before its real re-appearance at the end of the movement.

The slow movement which follows is the only part of the symphony that remains entirely as it was in the earlier version. Beginning high up with the violins alone, it follows a descending pattern to the lower register at which point the wind instruments take over. After a vehement and declamatory passage the music gradually subsides, and the movement ends in the quieter mood of the beginning.

The last movement is a lighter vein. More frankly melodic than what has gone before, it starts unashamedly with tune twelve bars long in 3 / 2 time. After some variants of this have been briefly explored, a second theme appears shared between strings, woodwind and horns. Later the original theme reappears in a somewhat different guise, after which a fairly extended contrapuntal passage occurs before a third statement of the opening. This movement is in fact a Rondo, as frequently but emphatic coda in which the woodwind and trumpets try to establish the key of B major, but the rest of the orchestra will have none of this and repeat three times a cadence in D which has been the tonal centre of the whole work and now concludes it.

Lennox Berkeley


Symphony No. 3, Op. 74: Allegretto moderato - Un poco meno vivo - Tempo I - Piu lento —
Symphony No. 3, Op. 74: Lento —
Symphony No. 3, Op. 74: Allegro


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