Commissioned by the LSO

  • 2(2pic)2(ca)2(Ebcl:Ebcl,bcl)2(cbn)/4331/timp.2perc/str
  • 17 min

Programme Note

In The Beginning was written between June and November 1987 and was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra with funds provided by the David Cohen Family Charitable Trust. The first performance was given by the LSO conducted by Jeffrey Tate on 21 January 1988 at the Barbican Centre, London.

The title has two interpretations. Firstly it can refer to the opening of Genesis, with its depiction of the Creation and the birth of Order and Light. Secondly it might suggest the idea of growth and re-birth, and both these concepts were in my mind as I worked on the score. There are three linked movements. The first begins with the emergence of a motivic/harmonic idea which contains within it its own eventual resolution, and from which all the music of the piece is derived. From darkness, the music rises, reaches a point of illumination and then returns to the depths, forming an arc. The opening of the second movement is also the temporary harmonic resolution of the first; this is quick and is formed of three arcs, the last of which rises again to arrive at the third part, a dance of joy. This is itself in three parts, the second being a varied repetition of the first, while the last sets a brass chorale alongside the continuing dance in the rest of the orchestra. This section culminates in a tutti unison E (as did the centre of the first movement) before subsiding onto the true resolution of the work, the notes E/G#. At the end, the vibraphone and crotales chime out a questioning G#/A# against the double-basses low, sustained E, not only causing the apparently secure resolution to lose its sense of finality, but also leaving in the listener's ear the fundamental images of the work - darkness opposed to light.

© Robert Saxton, 1987


In the Beginning: I. Slow, sustained, mysterious
In the Beginning: II. Agitated, quick
In the Beginning: III. Fast, joyful, dancing


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