latest symphony for audition

I have to start somewhere and decided my latest completed work is as good a place as any. This symphony unfortunately also happens to be my longest work to date but at least there are timing points so it could be treated initially as four little one movement symphonies if needs be.

The work was inspired by the 4th symphony from Alexander Brincken. Discovering it was a shock -- a symphony written just about 6 years ago but nearly all of the language used would have been familiar to Bruckner, Franz Schmidt or Rachmaninov. The remarkable thing is though that, unlike just about every other contemporary symphony I've heard, it doesn't politely apologize for the occasional tune which might have actually passed the censor but absolutely revels in its melodic invention. The result is wonderful and should be heard by anyone without fixed prejudices about how much of recent musical "developments" it's allowed to ignore. This Toccata release can be found on YouTube and the usual streaming sites. In the spirit of this, I started my 14th which quotes directly from Brincken's main theme in the slow movement. I wrote to him, mainly to thank him for this work and to apologize for quoting him but he insisted on hearing my effort and to my astonishment really seemed to like it, regarding it as "very successful". I'm not so convinced as I failed to capture the spontaneous ecstasy but perhaps it has a few merits of its own. Will be interested to see what people on this forum make of it. it can be found here:

https://soundcloud.com/user-335221984-320581465/symphony-no-14?si=d318c6abab9440b38bb022513e5c934b

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  • Listened to the first 2 movements/sections so far.  Quite impressed by the production quality, and also the sense of melody that's so atypical of today's symphonic scene. :-D

    I'm not too familiar with Aaron Copland's work, but that's the closest I know of that I can compare your music to. Perhaps also a bit of Rimsky-Korsakov. The melodic lines are the primary agent and harmony plays a secondary, complementary role.  The first movement opens with what's comparable to cheerful birdsong, but impressively enough by the end it has become a grandiose symphony with the very same "birdsong" themes.  The second movement is more serious in mood, and remotely reminds me of Korngold's violin concerto or Walton's 2nd symphony.

    Listening to 3rd movement/section now.  Sounds almost Holst-like, on first impression. Now listening to last movement. Starts with the cheerful mood of the opening section, then segues into more serious material. All beautifully melodic, though. I liked how at the end the opening cheerful melodies return, only to give way to a more contemplative musing, capped with another brief and final return of the cheerfulness.

    Overall, I'd say that I enjoyed listening to it, even though it's not my usual fare of grandiose dramatic arcs. :-D   Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Teoh,

      Many thanks for listening to the symphony and your comments. If you liked the scherzo, you might like the finale as well! I would say that in this work at any rate, melody is key. There is some bitonality but not a huge amount and although there are are a few passages, particularly in the Brucknerian intensification of the slow movement first theme (from around 17'45" for instance) which become very chromatic and much darker than the work was ever supposed to be. But, even more than usual, it was supposed to be a work where lyrical melody was king. The orchestration is somewhat richer in the woodwind in particular than in most previous works although everything is relative -- I always score relatively sparingly in a way completely different from tradition as it's more important to achieve some distinctive colours, even if mishandled, than a muddy blend.
      The influences you quote are interesting as none of them in fact are composers who I have much interest in although in one or two cases such as Copland or Rimsky-Korsakov, I think I see where you're coming from. Bruckner is the primary influence in a number of my symphonies including this one, though not everywhere. I think the more jubilant side comes from Nielsen rather. In general, being half Swedish,there is quite strong Nordic influence but central European, particularly Austria/Bohemia dominates.

       

       

      • Hi David,

        Just returned from a long hiatus to find this work of yours and listened all the way through. I must say I'm very impressed with your lyrical invention here and the scoring, which strikes me as masterly, if sometimes let down a little by the rendering, in which the low brass especially don't sound quite realistic. But overall, kudos.

        Interesting that you say that Bruckner was your primary influence, as that was exactly my impression, though in a way that's very difficult to put my finger on. It is not in the harmonic language or the scoring, certainly, somewhat in the shaping of the themes, but above all in the way the music *moves*, which is to say, not at all in a straight line, but with many parenthetical comments, howevers, whereases, and moreovers. I was reminded in places of the last movement of Bruckner's 6th in that respect. I did feel that there were places where the tension dissipated in a way that I found slightly off-putting because I was hoping for the music to build up more of a head of steam, and it never does - in this way the sense of motion is very different from what I hear in Nielsen. Perhaps this is again the Brucknerian influence? I'm not certain.

        In any case, thank you for sharing this, it's a most impressive achievement. It is your 14th? I would be interested in hearing some of your first 13!

        Oh yes, one more comment... Soundcloud. Here, as in things that I have posted there, I've found that they really compress the dynamic level something awful. In the softer passages the music was actually difficult to hear, even with the volume turned all the way up! A pox on Soundcloud... looking for other venues to post music that does not do this.

         

        • Hi Liz and a Happy New Year. Nice to see you back again! Your commentary on my symphony is among the most perceptive I've come across so far. Yes, the Bruckner influence is strong but doesn't dominate throughout and. as you say it is neither in the orchestration not the harmony (though just occasionally there are echoes of the more disturbed passages of the great adagio in no. 9 in my slow movement which were never intended) but perhaps rather in the overall emotional tenor and architectural feel. I'm not sure that there such a Bruckner 6 finale parenthetical juxtaposition of ideas in this work though I certainly recognise it as a characteristic in others.

          What particularly interests me is if there are particular examples of places where you feel the music should be heading towards a climax but doesn't? Certainly at the end of the first movement, there is an almost riotous jubilation which is never again repeated as the music becomes increasingly ambiguous but there may well be others where I have missed a trick.

          As to the mockup and audio, I think the Cinematic Studio orchestral library is the best out there for a warmth of tone and beautiful legato though, like all libraries, it works better with some things than others. I'm no audio engineering expert and generally I stop tinkering when I have reached a minimum acceptable standard which means what I want to express does largely come across even if there are rough edges.

          I've now taken out a subscription with Reelcrafter which doesn't mess around with your audio and may be a suitable platform for you (or some others here) as well.The following link gives access to a selection of other symphonic works. Arguably 11 and 12 are the most powerful and original.
          https://rcrft.co/reel/dko22/symphonies. Please be aware that a version 2 of the platform will shortly be released which has new features including the rather important live timing readout to enable reference to an exact location. After the trial, it seems there is a free version as well as the two paid tiers (I have Basic) but it does its best to hide itself and I'm still not quite sure what is included.

          The last item on the list, the Concertino, is an oddity which is my latest composition but is in no way symphonic so it will be rehoused at some point-- I'll maybe draw attention to it in a separate thread in due course

          • Hi David,

            Happy New Year to you as well.

            I took another listen to your 14th Symphony today, this time on Reelcrafter where the dynamic range is wider and the audio level isn't so badly attenuated as it is on Soundcloud. I'm not sure that I have any further insights from my second listen, but my initial impression was very much reinforced: your aesthetic (in this work, anyway) seems to be very much in tune with Bruckner's, and the way the music unfolds is Brucknerian to an almost uncanny degree. The opening paragraphs of the Maestoso reminded me of the opening of Bruckner's 4th; the Scherzo is an echt-Brucknerian scherzo. None of the movements feels like an Allegro (again, very much as in Bruckner), and all of them seem to be constructed not from individual themes, but motifs and figures that are combined and recombined, always over the same basic pulse within each movement. The opening of your Scherzo is a good example - starting with a repeated figure that is then joined by other repeated figures in cross-rhythm, and so forth. The music becomes more active by subdividing the basic pulse into smaller subdivisions, not by changes or fluctuations of tempo. Not having seen the score I can't know how that basic pulse is notated, and whether your bars are of 2 beats or some multiple thereof, but there are groupings, that are probably a certain number of bars, that repeat over and over, again a very Brucknerian feature. There are interesting cross-rhythms but the basic pulse is never hidden, at least not for long, and there is not much variety in the lengths pf phrases.

            I don't think it is so much that I feel the music fails to build toward climaxes in specific places as that the way it builds tension is through accumulation, by increasing the density of the texture, and not through altering the sense of flow. Sometimes, as in the Scherzo after the initial paragraph, a slower contrasting music is interpolated instead of proceeding to develop the initial ideas. Once again I feel that is very akin to how Bruckner's scherzi unfold - it is not a flaw in the music, but a feature that requires a particular orientation on the part of the listener that is different from how one approaches, say, Beethoven, or Brahms, or Nielsen.

            I hope this makes at least some sense... as I said, it is very difficult for me to put my finger on why your music reminds me of Bruckner because it is in the way it moves and unfolds and in how it manages tension. Thank you for the link to your Reelcrafter page that has some of your other symphonies; I will certainly check out at least a couple of those over the next few days while I still have time, before classes resume on the 10th.

            Cheers,

            Liz

            •   thanks again for your insights, Liz. The scherzo my wife accused me of having already written and indeed the one in my 8th -- probably the most Brucknerian -- starts with an identical rhythm though then goes off in rather different directions. Bruckner's scherzi are of course quite varied but retain a common basic plan, I feel. I don't think my initial ideas in this work are strictly developed according to classical principles but are rather subject to a sort of continuous evolution, very much as you say, which could be interpreted as laziness and a weakness. The basic pulse in not altered and it's perhaps this, above all, which is Brucknerian?

              Anyway, there are works where a rather different approach is taken -- above all perhaps in no. 13 which gradually develops short motifs through various transformations, thickening of texture and quickening of pulse

              I attach my mockup performing score of 14. Obviously this contains only the instructions required to the virtual library and on occasion they will be different from what humans might require. Dorico's interpretation of enharmonic spelling I haven't bothered to change -- it is sometimes rather odd and relies on being able to correctly interpret the key signature when it's not absolutely clear. If the music is marked as atonal, it follows different rules. Orchestral balance in the real world may well require certain doublings which are not indicated but are fine as written for a mockup. I never see much point in spending ages over a score which is unlikely to be performed in the real world anyway but I have friends who completely disagree.

               01 - Full score - symphony no. 14.pdf 

              https://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/9977826071?profile=original
              • Thanks for the score to your Symphony, David, I've perused it briefly but not followed the rendering with it yet. That might be difficult since your orchestra is so large that it's difficult to see the entire page on the computer without zooming out so far it's hard to read the notes!

                What you say about Dorico puzzles me a little - the app actually controls the way notes are spelled? That's very different from Sibelius - I could certainly write an A-flat with no difficulty in the key of E major. Or maybe I've misunderstood what you are saying. SIbelius also has key signatures and distinguishes between C major, A minor, and atonal, though I'm not sure that choosing one over the other has any effect. Anyway I'm still thinking about trying out Dorico, probably won't during this break, likely not until May when summer vacation starts. I am definitely curious, though, whether the rendering problems I've had with Sibelius / NP would still exist under Dorico / NP. I know that certain issues, e.g. timing flubs, are much more of a problem with Sibelius than Finale, but I really hate that Finale doesn't help with engraving details, while Sibelius and, it seems, Dorico, both do. And Dorico also seems (from what you've said) to be more flexible about allowing the user to substitute different sound libraries, something I would have no idea how to do with Sibelius.

                I don't know that the unvaried basic pulse is a weakness of your piece, David, since you compensate for it very well with harmonic and textural variety... but I found it slightly off-putting in a work with such extended-length movements. This is probably largely due to my expectations as a listener and the way I approach most music; others may have a very different take.

                I also looked up the composer you say inspired you in this work, Alexander Brincken... he sounds interesting, and unusual, but I was unable to find any recordings of his works to sample for free online. It is refreshing to know that there are other composers, even some with international followings, who are still writing in traditional idioms. That is something I was actively discouraged from doing (except in theory class) when I was studying at Michigan in the 1970s.

                 

                • I've produced a new version of the score with both "condensing" (a feature unique to Dorico) and "hide empty staves" on so it takes considerably less space. For actual composing, I generally prefer such features to be off. In Dorico I always enter notes by MIDI keyboard so by definition Dorico has to decide if it's a D# or Eb. Of course if it's wrong, you can quickly respell it but I'm not often not too diligent at looking out for these things as I'm going along. Incidentally in neither version of the score are there more than a tiny handful of layout alterations. For conventional notation, Dorico is so reliable that I rarely even look out for things. In Sibelius I had to do a good deal more work.

                  I'm not aware of any significant way in which Dorico differs from Sibelius with regards to NotePerformer implementation with the exception of a handful of articulations not being supported in Dorico at present --most importantly in my view brass glissandi. Anyway Arne Wallander is working on a new v4 for NP and Dorico 4 will be released in the next few weeks. Updates to both may well change the picture. As things stand, I wouldn't get Dorico in the hope of better Noteperformer performance but for using other virtual instruments, it's far easier and with more features in Dorico, esp. with a more DAW-friendly layout promised in the update.

                  Brincken's 4th symphony can be found on YouTube although it seems the movements are listed separately which is slightly annoying. The first two are the most important, anyway. It's certainly in the Naxos library if you have access to that. His first is the only one to have been performed live and he was kind enough to send me a CD of it. Currently only the opening of the adagio is available on YouTube but this is an extraordinary work -- if ever there was a Bruckner 10 than this is it though it will require a modern recording and performance to fully bring out its merits as the fugal finale doesn't completely convince in the Soviet recording and Brincken is not entirely happy with it.

                   

                  01 - Full score - symphony no. 14.pdf

                  https://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/9978613262?profile=original
  • Hi David, I just finished listening to your 14th symphony in its entirety.  Wow, what an incredible work!  I'm very impressed!  It's a piece that I know would reward repeated listenings, and following along in the score would be particularly fruitful, which unfortunately I only discovered had been posted after I was almost finished listening to it.

    It feels very original.  It has an almost dreamlike, stream-of-consciousness feel to it in places, where the melodies weave together beautifully and effortlessly in a way that can be quite mesmerizing.  And yet, I firmly sense its more traditional aspects, namely the overall structure you've fashioned, which gives it a logical coherence and sense of direction.  When I finished it, I felt like I had heard something profound, that I had stepped into original musical territory.  Bravo!

    I have listened to snippets from your other symphonies posted there on that page (at reelcrafter), and I'm looking forward to listening to them in full when I have the time.           

    • Hi Greg,

      Very good of you to listen to my symphony in its entirety (it's my longest work) and I'm glad you seemed to appreciate it. I'm not sure it's original -- for me it was something of a return to a classic/romantic model after somewhat greater experimentation in nos. 10-13, but it has a few nice tunes and is possibly better written overall than any of the previous ones, though that isn't saying much. I'm frankly a lazy composer -- as I don't expect these works will ever be performed by a professional orchestra, I don't bother much about a polished score or possible real-life performance issues (though I generally avoid trying to write in a virtuosic style). As i said, the impetus was Brincken's 4th and I failed in my attempt to capture something of the rapture of that wonderful work but perhaps there is something else instead which makes some sense.

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