Symphony No.1


by David Matthews

Full Orchestra
2(I&II=picc).2(II=ca).2(II= Eb, A & bcl).2 - 4200 - timp - perc(1): glsp - harp - strings
First Performance
(unrevised) 8.10.75, Stroud Festival: Academy of BBC/Norman del Mar, (revised 1978 version) 5.11.07, Belfast: Ulster Orchestra/George Vass

Score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

The original version of my First Symphony was composed in the summer of 1975 and first performed at the Stroud Festival on 8 October 1975 by the Academy of the BBC conducted by Norman Del Mar. It was then called Sinfonia. I became dissatisfied with it after the premiere and in 1978 I made an extensive revision. I kept the three-movements-in-one scheme, but replaced the 18-bar introduction for full orchestra with a brief harp solo (the harp is an addition to the original scoring, which also used two horns rather than four) and made considerable cuts and rewrites in the central scherzo and the slow finale. I also decided to call the piece 'Symphony No.1', having in the meantime composed No.2. At the time I wrote the piece I was interested in one-movement solutions to the symphonic problem, as in Schoenberg's First Chamber Symphony or Sibelius's Seventh. The opening section consists of canonic variations on a chorale, which appears on four solo cellos after the initial harp flourish. The first five notes of the chorale, outlining a minor triad followed by a rising fifth, generate much of the material of the Symphony - for instance the trio of the scherzo and the main theme of the finale. The variations are twice interrupted by a premonition of the scherzo, before the scherzo itself bursts in. Its dynamism contrasts with the largely static motion of the trio, which comes twice: in between the scherzo returns in a distorted version, which it takes a more luxuriant version of the trio to calm. In the third statement of the scherzo the exuberant mood gradually returns, leading to the final, slow section, another series of variations, interrupted by reminiscences of the scherzo. The variations reach a climax and the final paragraph centres on the note A, on which the Symphony had begun.

© David Matthews 2007

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