Commissioned by the Essex Youth Orchestra
In the Spring of 1975 Graham Treacher asked me if I would write a work for the Essex Youth Orchestra to play during their 1977 season. The Sinfonietta is the outcome of that invitation, and it is dedicated to Graham Treacher and the Orchestra. I have liked and admired the Essex youth Orchestra for a long time, and wrote my Essex Overture for them, and I have enjoyed writing this Sinfonietta for them very much.
It is about 16 minutes long and is in four movements, played without a break-except a very brief one before the last movement. All four movements are thematically closely related to each other, so that the whole piece is rather like a piece of woven material with many patterns and colours in it, which is yet ‘all-of-a-piece’.
The dominating idea is the forthright phrase, announced by the trombones at the outset: much of the material, both melodic and harmonic grows out of this initial phrase. Quieter passages in wind and strings follow the strenuous opening of the brief first movements, but the brass soon re-enters and it grows to a climax, which dies away to end quietly.
The second movement is a lively Scherzo in the traditional ternary (A B A) form. The spiky woodwind phrases of the opening and the oboe melody of the quiet middle section both grow from the initial trombone phrase of the first movement.
A Molto Lento follows, with sombre repeated chords for trombones and strings in impassioned unison.
In the last movement, Allegro Moderato, the now familiar spiky intervals are again important, particularly in the rigorous opening theme. In a more lyrical passage which follows, woodwinds and first violin all have expressive solos. A reference to the sombre chords of the slow movement leads to a brief ‘free’ passage for the whole orchestra. The closing pages of the work reflect its opening; later ideas being combined with the return of the earlier ones.
Programme note by Elizabeth Maconchy (1976)