Symphony (mvts 1&2) (arr.) - Nick Ray

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Symphony (mvts 1&2) (arr.) - Nick Ray


First two movements of symphony, played as a piano arrangement by Anthony Green on 10 May 2014 at Schott's (publishers) recital room in Great Marlborough Street, London.

NICK RAY. Symphony movts 1 and 2 (composer’s arrangement for piano) – dedicated to Prof Alexander Goehr.
The first movement, being fairly short, is a kind of prologue which also does duty for an exposition, presenting some of the material which is developed in later movements. It begins with a declamatory chordal motif (a falling semitone) which quickly moves into an agitated contrapuntal section. A new theme, played by trumpets and characterised by quivering staccato repeated notes, briefly establishes a D minor tonality but this is quickly effaced and the chordal theme of the opening returns leading to a climax. After this, a long melody for solo violin develops one of the subsidiary ideas into a melancholy cantilena underneath which the other two main themes combine. The music then sinks into despondency and darkness over a three-note ostinato in the lower strings returning to the D minor briefly established earlier. The brief Allegro interruption does not manage to lighten the mood, which sinks further until the music falls into silence on a sustained vibraphone chord.
The second movement (inspired by reading Vaclav Havel’s autobiography To the Castle and Back) is considerably longer and is a kind of scherzo. A chaotic swirl of woodwinds leads down to a hammered two-note timpani motif, ushering in the grimly humorous ‘1st subject’ (tuba and contrabassoon) which is accompanied by a pulsating drone whose rhythm suggests alternating 5/16 and 7/16. The movement has several contrasting ideas placed roughly together, and they gradually begin to combine and reveal links as the music proceeds. After the climax, the drone rhythm returns and the woodwinds sadly pass broken fragments of the 1st subject around. After a more optimistic-sounding section for brass in (or nearly in) C major, there is a coda which is in two sections: a slow dignified development of one of the themes, followed by a very fast section which forcibly restores the energetic and frantic character of the opening before collapsing suddenly into a kind of ‘throwaway’ ending in D major.

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