I returned to the second span of the symphony yesterday, putting aside my trepidation to give it a listen and assess as objectively as possible quite how awful it is. There is a fair way to go on this music, but I was glad to find that the basic structure of this section seems to be secure, meaning that I can get to work on the notes rather than worry too much about the framework.
I refer to it as a ‘span’ because, although it would normally be a self-contained movement, in this work the four sections of a traditional symphony are run into each other a couple of times. In other words, this is a two movement work, each half consisting of two of the normal four movements.
Confused yet? Well, it is a structure that has been in my mind for a long time, several years, and which I always knew would underpin this work when I got around to it, and I must point to Sibelius and Lutosławski – again – as the models for this approach.
When it comes to the symphonies of the last hundred years or so I tend always to be pulled back to these two writers first. Of course there are many other excellent symphonies and symphonists around, even some that are off the beaten track (Moeran’s wonderful Symphony in G minor has long been a favourite), but Jean and Witold are my go-to folk.
The enormity of the task can be forbidding, I must admit, but yesterday when I was running through the music I could hear shadows of the material that it will become. The more I dive in the more those nebulous hazes gather solidity, and one day they wil be fixed upon the page, but that day does sometimes seem a long way off.