• Benjamin Frankel
  • Symphony No. 5 (1967)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

British Premiere in March 1969 by the New Philharmonia Orchestra / Denis Vaughan, conductor

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  • 19 min

Programme Note

The arrival at a 5th symphony in these relatively unsymphonic days is not only a central and significant point for the composer, but one of great responsibility. He will want to show a steady development both in language and in the particular grasp of formal problems with which symphonism is associated and yet, if he is to be truthful in his objective as a composer, the result must be a work of musical meaning and not a mere demonstration of technical or "searching" originality. If, as with me, the intention is always to use the form of the symphony as a basis, so to speak a natural platform, for what it is that I have to say, then it may seem to some people that the result will be found insufficient. It is well known that one looks to the symphony as a form for stylistic and technical (indeed, often revolutionary) developments; one looks for, perhaps, originality of manner rather than of content. But, for this composer in particular, form and content are not to be divided. Further, he happens to hold the view that too little has been done with the new technical means devised over the last 50 years and he believes, also, that the constant search for "new" means often masks the incapacity to master those already available. Having said this, then, let me say… only in passing… that two of the movements are written in the technical method unpopularly known as serial. Nevertheless, I would like to challenge those expert-minded people who imagine that the knowledge of this fact will give them a sound basis for disapproval by saying that I do not think that they will necessarily be able to distinguish one technical style from another, any more than they would be able to distinguish one technical style from another, any more than they would be able to tell accurately the difference in Bach between that which is truly fugal or only seemingly so. Indeed, I would like to say something particular about this problem of language and style. The time is passed when to be writing extended works in 12-note-serial techniques was itself a matter for wonder. The challenge for the composer, now, is to show what he can succeed in saying with the highly-developed technical means that history has placed in his hands, and to concern himself with the need to provide originality, not of manner, but of content.

So to the symphony. The first movement is essentially lyrical and the elements introduced at the outset of the movement prove to be the whole of the material with which it is concerned. The underlying feeling is pastoral and the atmosphere romantic in sentiment. The argument concerns itself with the transformation of the material from the opening onwards.

The second movement, again an "outlaw" piece, has the suggestion of entering into a woodland scene. There are "natur-themen" snatches of folk elements and a general air of rustling mystery. This movement takes the place of the usual slow movement and is in fact headed gracioso.

The last movement, in spite of a complicated structural pattern, is a brilliant Finale based on all manner of march-elements, among them several chorale-like episodes. These should all be seen as having a decisive symphonic connection, although the exterior object is to bring the work to a rousing conclusion.

The work is dedicated to my adviser and friend in Switzerland, Hugo Spühler, in gratitude.
© Benjamin Frankel

Listen

Symphony No. 5, Op. 46: I. Moderato, Amabile
Symphony No. 5, Op. 46: II. Grazioso
Symphony No. 5, Op. 46: III. Allegro brillante

Discography