Instrumentation

2(=picc).afl.2.ca.Ebcl.2.bcl.cbcl.2.cbsn - 6431 - timp- perc(4): 3 BD+1 with foot.ped/12 tom-t/2 TD/3 tam-t/3 susp.cym/2 hi-hat/6 c.bells/lujon/t.bells/2 vib/2 glsp/crot/2 siz.cym/tamb/log drum/guiro/ratchet/1 or 2 fishing rod reels/1 or 2 vibraslap/mcas/sleighbells/4 tpl.bl/2 anvil/2 brake drum/bell tree/tgl - pno(=cel) - harp - strings (pref min 14.12.10.10.8)

Availability

Full score, vocal score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

Renewal owes its origins to a remark I made at the pre-concert talk for the first performance, in the spring of 1992, of what has now become its third part.  I said then that I had thought of Broken Symmetry as perhaps the scherzo of a ‘mega-work’.  After its second performance, at the Proms that same year, Nicholas Kenyon reminded me of what I had said, and asked me when I was going to write the rest of it.  Although I hadn’t really thought through the implications of writing something on such a large scale (Broken Symmetry alone lasts a little over twenty minutes) the idea of doing something gradually grew, and the prospect of composing a work to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Third Programme – only a few months younger than myself – made it concrete.

For the framework of the second part, a Threnody dedicated to the memory of Toru Takemitsu, who died while I was writing it, I turned to another pre-existing piece, Memorial, composed for the London Symphony Orchestra in 1992.  But I only used the opening section of that work, for strings, piano and harp, and the music develops in a different direction from its original.  The opening Intrada a 70th birthday present for Hans Werner Henze, is scored for  wind, brass, and percussion: its musical material is closely related to Broken Symmetry, although unlike that work it is mostly slow and brooding.  The final part, Metamorphoses, for chorus and orchestra, sets a text derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, describing the philosophy of Pythagoras: ‘Nothing in the whole world endures unchanged…everything is renewed’ From this comes the title of the whole work.

Intrada is the shortest of the four parts, lasting some 8 minutes only.  A sombre introduction is followed by distant trumpet fanfares and a still centre of chorale-like chords.  The development of this material is much more energetic, and the return of the trumpets is wild and violent.  A further short but forceful development section leads to a coda in which the trumpets are superimposed over the chorale chords.

Threnody follows without a break, and although its dense string textures are in complete contrast to the preceding part, its material centres on the note C sharp (one semitone above middle C) which had been prepared in Intrada.  (In Broken Symmetry this focus on C sharp will become obsessive).  The music is very static and intense, but from after its half-way point (it lasts around 11 minutes) gradually relaxes and dies away in gentle homage to Takemitsu. 

Broken Symmetry was designed as a scherzo, but its structure is complex.  Its first half consists of three scherzo sections and three ‘trios’ (after an introduction the first trio precedes the first scherzo).  There is a frenetic centre to the work, and then the first half is recapitulated in reverse.  But it is not a mirror image, as the symmetry is broken, and the scherzos and trios contract, collide and distort, becoming virtually unrecognisable in the process.  The imagery is perhaps that of a machine going out of control, and when it has reached its fastest and most extreme, it collapses, and the mechanism very quickly runs down. 

The all-persuasive C sharp of Broken Symmetry drops down a semitone to underpin Metamorphosis with deep pedal C.  To follow such a manic scherzo with anything other than a mood of reflection seemed impossible, and though the textures are often complex, the music is hushed throughout, and for the most part tranquil.  This culminates in a gentle coda for the chorus (‘cernis et emensas in lucem tendere noctes’), before a postlude which is rooted to the C of the opening: as if an echo of all that has gone before, though hugely simplified. 

 

Reviews

‘It’s the third movement which continues to hold the fascination.  It’s an astonishing display of variety and inventiveness within a single range of very fast tempos … The whole immense work deserves to be heard again …’
The Daily Telegraph (Philip Hensher), 5 October 1996
 
‘He has … brought musical architectonics to a personal pitch of mastery.  He finds much of freshness and power to say within the sort of exploration of formal symmetries and their deliberate undermining that has often been the business of composition.’
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 6 October 1996

Renewal

final movement (Metamorphosis)

Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre (London, United Kingdom)

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski, London Philharmonic Choir

Renewal

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

Sir Andrew Davis, BBC Symphony Orchestra

Renewal

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

Sir Andrew Davis, BBC Symphony Orchestra

Renewal

Barbican Hall, Barbican Centre (London, United Kingdom)

Sir Andrew Davis, BBC Symphony Orchestra

Renewal

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Oliver Knussen