I am pleased to present the fully orchestral version of my Sinfonia Solenne, which I'm now calling my Symphony No. 1 and giving the opus number 2b (the finished strings-only version I posted last week is now my Op. 2a). There are a few new elements here, most notably that the work opens with a soft timpani roll, as does the recurrence of the main fugue; and in 3 passages in the score there is a sparse, very quiet bass line given tentatively to the timpani (I don't know how quickly timpanists can retune - if it's unplayable as written i can rescore the parts where pitch is essential for double basses, pizzicato).

The work is scored for two flutes and a piccolo, two clarinets and a bass clarinet, two oboes, cor anglais, two F horns and two C trumpets (I call for a D6 which I don't think a B-flat trumpet can reach - but I could be wrong), bassoon and contrabasson, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, a string quartet, and standard strings including double basses. The string ensemble is in some places reduced to 2 or 3 players per section for a purer, more transparent sound, but I do not call for a separate "chamber strings" choir as I did in the strings-only version. The low brass are used VERY sparingly, as is the piccolo. Percussion is limited to the timpani; this is mostly a slightly expanded classical orchestra; I think the size is similar to what Robert Simpson used for several of his symphonies.

The rendering was done with Sibelius + NotePerformer using Concert Hall reverb level. I do not like that much reverb and think the sound in this version is a little on the muddy side, but since that's the only kind of hall this version could be performed in, I felt I had to go with it. There are places where the inner voices are obscured a lilttle by the reverb, but others where the distinctive timbres helps to bring them out, so it might be a wash.

Final update I think, as of 01:00 UTC ib 3 June. I'm pretty satisfied with this - no really significant changes since last update, mostly refinements to dynamics and various hacks to make Sib / NP articulate the phrases clearly and correctly. If you held off listening because, aww shoot, she'll just make more changes, I think now would be okay. If you've already heard the orchestral version, no need to listen again unless you really want to. ;)

Audio file: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NgmfgUOwyxlDcNOizRP2zUR9B5YehbHC/view?usp=sharing

Score used for rendering (meaning: here be hacks): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1D9TvbwdQyRsEzC9AZRt8C50PWbaUXa1T/view?usp=sharing

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                  • Hmm. So the VSL player has plugins for various different DAWs?

                    What's the nature of keyswitches, are they like actual midi notes that don't play a note but switch to a different patch?  So in theory, if I were to edit my MIDI file to include those notes, then the player would perform those articulation changes?

                    I'm actually more interested in programmatic interfaces to the player, so that I can drive everything by script instead of doing things manually. (I'm an automation freak.)

                    • Plugins have standardized formats (VST etc.) widely used. Keyswitches go in inaudible ranges for the particular instrument but you have to assign the note in the player to the corresponding patch so DAW midi entry is probably easier.


                  • Well, there is only a  minimal learning curve for NotePerformer, but it does require one of only three rather expensive notation apps, and Lilypond isn't one of them. I believe Arne does offer a free trial of NP, but when I was looking into notation software, I found that the free trials offered by the two I was considering at the time (Sibelius and Finale) gave you only crippled versions. Finale, for example, doesn't allow you to create audio files from the trial version. I quickly discovered that I hated Finale's engraving, and Sibelius promised all the functionality I needed, so i chose that. But it was only after paying for Sib Ultimate that I had a fully functional composition workshop... and Sib + NP isn't cheap, especially if you don't qualify for the educational discount on Sib as I did.


                    • Well, then NP is probably out of the question for me. :-(  I love Lilypond's formatting, but I'm not about to write the score twice in two different programs just because.


                    • Sibelius does a pretty good job of importing midi, even gets the tempo and instrument assignments if you have them.


                    • And its formatting is MUCH better than Finale's. You do have to adjust spacings between staves and stuff, but the extra work is minimal. It sounds like the comparison between Sib and Lilypond might be similar to that between Word and LaTeX - you can't beat LaTeX's typesetting capabilities, but Word does a pretty good job, especially with plugins for special applications (like MathType for equations), and for smaller tasks (and especially if you don't have a suitable ,cls file) Word is the clear winner.


                    • I personally find Word totally atrocious and unusable, so that comparison doesn't work for me. :-D  I had a truly horrible experience once at work when my manager insisted that I had to do a particular document in Word. I spent 2 hours fighting with Word over formatting until I realized that the only way to use Word without developing a strong urge of defenestration is to not pay any attention to formatting and just let it do whatever it thinks it should be doing. If that's how Sibelius is with scores, I think I will never come near it with a 10-foot pole!

                    • Software can be difficult, no question there.  The good news is that, on paper at least, you could easily try out NotePerformer on either Sibelius, Finale or Dorico for no money.

                      The midi file that you export from Lilypond can easily be imported into any of the above three which will then automatically generate a score. If you have NotePerformer installed your playback will also be automatic.  You can then export an audio file.  The score that is generated will likely require some tweaking to be useful but you are using Lilypond for a score so that wouldn't matter.



                    • I'm currently going crazy over a SIbelius issue (auto-scrolling a.k.a. "following the caret"), so it is definitely atrocious in some respects, but I have not had too much trouble getting it to format my scores the way I want - it's definitely much better in that respect than Finale, in that it has some intelligence about spacing and positioning of directions, dynamics, etc., and the default settings that control those parameters are all customizable (at least in Ultimate). (Part of the key to good results with Sibelius is to let it choose an appropriate paper size, e.g. tabloid size for a huge score like this current symphony of mine.) But then again, I've never had quite so intense a negative experience with Word as you describe. It may depend on the specific type of document - for quick explanations and notes to post for my students, I will certainly use Word over LaTeX as I have no style sheet or .cls file for something on-the-fly like that. But for a research paper of any size, it's LaTeX FTW, all the way.

                      And yes, as Ingo says, you can always try NotePerformer on one of the three big notation platforms, but the trial version may be cripplied - with Sibelius or Finale it will be, not sure about Dorico. At this point I'm getting so frustrated with Sibelius that I am on the verge of trying Dorico myself.


                    • I'll just add that NP is driving me up a wall too now... yesterday I discovered an actual error in my scoring, where after the horns and reduced (a2) cellos announce the countersubject in two-part counterpoint at GG, both the cellos and the violas continue a2 - I forgot to reset the number of players to tutti (a0)! So now for the last couple of days I've been trying to redo the mock-up - for myself only, the effect of the tutti string sections is too subtle to be worth posting another audio file here - and running into a brick wall with Arne's "humanizing" unsynchronized playing with the entry of the solo viola just before GG - it's ALWAYS either noticeably too early or noticeably too late. I must have done 15 renderings and that entrance only came out correctly twice, and each of those times there were other problems ("whooshing" effects) elsewhere in that section of the piece so that I could not get a decent rendering of it to merge in with Audacity. It's become clear to me that NP does not simulate string legato very well - sometimes it works well, other times the attacks on successive legato notes are still audible as "whooshes". At this point I'm about to give up tinkering with the piece. I've thought of a nice, perky, Bachian fugue subject that I can use for the self-contained fugue exercise I started to embark on two years ago, that got diverted (to put it mildly) and turned into this huge work. And the best part: I'm scoring it mostly for woodwinds, which seem to play back in perfect ensemble every time!

                      And no, H. S., I haven't forgotten about your E-flat major fugue - will return to that very soon.


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