4 years ago

Symphony No.2 ‘The Widening Gyre’ (Prevew)

by Anthony Ritchie | Orchestra

? Ritchie has composed

? Ritchie has composed film music in collaboration with Natural History New Zealand, including Southern Journeys in 2000. Nine albums of Ritchie’s music have been released in the last decade, including his album New Zealand Poets in Song (MANU5032), as well as chamber and orchestral albums. The album Remember Parihaka was released in 2009, including his widely performed Flute Concerto, written for Alexa Still. An album of Ritchie’s piano music, Expressions (MANU5098), was released in 2010 featuring pianist Tom McGrath. In 2012 the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra released a recording of Ritchie’s orchestral music, A Bugle Will Do: Symphony No.3 and Other Symphonic Works by Anthony Ritchie (ACD741), which was awarded Classical Album of the Year by the New Zealand Listener magazine and was a finalist at the New Zealand Music Awards. Reviewing this album for MusicWeb International, Nick Barnard wrote “Ritchie’s voice is both richly individual and utterly absorbing.” Further information about Ritchie can be found at: Ritchie’s fluency with counterpoint is demonstrated in this movement’s tightly twisting canonic lines, infused with metaphorical meaning. It is often these extramusical concepts that underpin the symphony’s structures, yet Ritchie navigates his weighty allusions with a balanced hand, providing a compelling structural and emotional arc. Symphony No.2 was commissioned by New Zealand’s International Festival of the Arts and premiered at the 2000 festival in Wellington by the Auckland Philharmonia, who were guests at the festival. It was recorded for the album Anthony Ritchie: Symphonies (Kiwi-Pacific SLD-115). Composer’s note Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed on the world… Symphony No.2 (‘The Widening Gyre’) (1999) I. Stratagem of Trumpets II. Mi-1st III. Double Helix Notes about the work Symphony No.2 is a fine example of Ritchie’s ability to take a surprisingly small amount of thematic material and draw it out into a highly compelling long-form narrative. Across its half-hour duration, Ritchie uses versatile themes and motifs to convey a shifting proximity to something dangerous or precarious—be it an external danger or something within, inherent in human nature. Textures thicken and quickly dissipate, as if a dream, with this constant wave-like fluctuation also acting upon dynamics and chromatic motivic contours. Much of Symphony No.2 is propelled by insistent quaver and semiquaver rhythms, which are organised into jagged patterns with the onset of the second movement, with each section of the orchestra engaging in some syncopated rhythmic interplay. Elsewhere, thunderous percussion and powerful brass evoke conflict, with xylophone, marimba, electronic keyboard and poi adding timbral interest to the symphony’s arc. A more optimistic tone is introduced with the third movement; an industrious busyness and bustle evoking human progress. from W. B. Yeats’ The Second Coming When asked to compose a work on the meaning and symbolism of the new millennium I decided to use William Butler Yeats’ famous poem The Second Coming as a starting point. Written in 1921, when the old order in Europe was breaking down, it suggests a revolution or rotation in history (the gyre) will bring about a “second coming” of an important historical figure, and the dawn of a new millennium. Yeats’ vision of the new world order to come is not, however, optimistic. He sees the coming of a “rough beast” with a “lion body and the head of a man”, a cold and heartless creature that might be equated with certain infamous and autocratic leaders in the 20th century. The “gyre” or revolution is represented in the symphony by a rolling, sliding timpani sound, accompanied by bass drum and tam-tam at the start of the work. This idea becomes an important motif and appears at the very start. ° / Lento q = 54 # 4 ∑ ? ∑ Bass Drum 4 p fluctuate dynamics æ ¢ / 4 A æ A æ A æ A æ A ppp ∑ ? Tam-tam ∑ drag rubber ball across drum head, describing circles æY æY yarn mallets strike from rim to middle and back again ˙æ pp Y˙æ Fig.1: Timpani, bass drum and tam-tam motif (Movement I, mm.1–5) æY æ ˙ æY Y˙æ UME17S – iv

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! # # Following the “gyre”, we hear a “life and death” theme that begins like a cradle song (the birth of Christ), rises, and then twists downwards in a chromatic line. This theme provides most of the material for what follows. Ó soli Œ ‰ œ œ. œ œ œ J J p espr. W œ. œ. œ Wœ J œnœWœœ 3 œWœ œnœœW˙ Fig.2: “Life and death” theme in Flute 1 (Movement I, mm.12–16) 3 3 4 œ Wœ W œ. ‰ The slow introduction climaxes with hammer blows, a reference to the death of Christ. From this a trumpet call emerges, becoming a significant motif later in the movement. In the allegro that follows, the “life and death” theme is transformed into a fast and restless melody, beginning as pizzicato on the strings. Complementing this is a macabre and folky theme on muted trumpet and clarinets, evoking a sort of frenzied, gyrating dance. The music quietens and a lyrical theme appears on flute, accompanied by timpani and harp and developed by the strings. As the music climaxes again, the trumpet call reappears, shared around other brass instruments. This trumpet call was inspired by Peggy Dunstan’s poem Stratagem of Trumpets, in which people are distracted by the sounds of trumpet calls and made unaware of an advancing army. Dunstan’s poem is based on the massacre of Serbs in 1389, during the Battle of Kosovo between Serbs and Turks. At the time of composing this symphony Kosovo was once again in the grip of war and atrocity, only this time the Serbs were the aggressors and Albanians were the victims. It seems to me that Kosovo sums up a situation common in our past millennium: an endless cycle of struggle for land and power, costing many innocent lives. In the music, the log drum heralds a sort of musical battlefield in which the “life and death” theme becomes an aggressive, jagged idea, used fugally in an increasingly dissonant texture. Following the battle, solo strings, piccolo and harp provide a brief lament for the dead and the music returns to the music of the Introduction. This time it is mixed fragments of the flute theme, and the movement ends quietly with the “gyre” motif. If the first movement represents the past, then the second movement is a comment on the present. The title Mi-1st refers to the heavy emphasis on the note E (or mi in the sol-fa system) as a central pitch, but can also be interpreted as “me first”. Essentially, this music comments on the natural human tendency to be self-centred. It is perhaps one aspect of Yeats’ “rough beast” that hinders our progress. There are three main ideas in this presto movement. The first is a savage chromatic theme that encircles the note E, played initially on strings. sul G ° 5 4 œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ 8 œ r ≈ ‰ Œ. > œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ sul G 5 4 œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ 8 œ œœœœœœœœœ arco > œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ B ∑ 5 > œ ≥ > ≥ > ≥ > ≥ > ≥ 4 > ≥ 8 œ Wœ Wœ œ œ J ‰ Œ Ó ff arco > B 5 œ ≥ > ∑ œ ≥ W> œ ≥ 4 8 Wœ> ≥ œ> ≥ > œ ≥ J ‰ Œ Ó ff œ> # ∑ 5 4 ¢ 8 ∑ Œ Ó Fig.3: Chromatic theme in strings (Movement II, mm.2–4) It is immediately followed by a vigorous, syncopated theme in the strings and woodwinds. ° ‰ ‰ > œ > > > > > œ œ > œ Wœ œnœ œ> > œ > œ > œ Y> œ œ. œ. > . . J ‰ J ‰ J ‰ J 2 3 4 4 ‰ J ‰ J ‰ J œ œ œ ff > œ > > > W> œ > œn> œ œ> > œ > > Y> œ œ. œ. œ > œ . œ. ff 2 4 a2 2 3 Wœ 4 4 .> œ. œ. œ. œ > . œ . œ. œ Wœ . > . œ . œ. œ Wœ . > . œ . œ. œ. œ > . œ . œ. œ. Wœ > . œ . œ. œ. f # Œ œ 2 3 ¢ . œ 4 4 > . Yœ œ . . œ . œ > . Yœ œ . . œ . œ > . Yœ œ . . œ . œ > . œ œ . . œ . œ > . Yœ œ . . œ . œ > . 3 4 a2 > > > > 2 > > > > 3 > > > > ‰ œ . J ‰ œ J ‰ œ J ‰ œ Wœ œ nœ œ J 4 4 ‰ œ J ‰ œ J ‰ œ Yœ œ œ J . œ œ œ > . . ff > > > > > > > > > > > > . . 2 3 > . . ‰ Wœ œ œ J ‰ J ‰ J œ Wœ œnœWœ ‰ J 4 4 ‰ œ Wœ J ‰ J œ ‰ J œ œ œ œ œ Wœ ff f > œ > > > > > œ œ > ° œ Wœ œnœ œ> > œ > œ > œ Y> œ œ. œ. > . . ‰ J ‰ J ‰ J ‰ J 2 3 4 4 ‰ J ‰ J ‰ J œ œ œ ff > > > > 2 > > > > 3 > > > > ‰ œ . J ‰ œ J ‰ œ J ‰ œ Wœ œ nœ œ J 4 4 ‰ œ J ‰ œ J ‰ œ Yœ œ œ J . œ œ œ > . . ff B œ j ‰ Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ 2 3 4 œ j ‰ Yœ j ‰ 4 œ j ‰ Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ ff > > > > > > > > > > > > 2 3 Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ 4 Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ 4Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ > > > > > > > > > > > > ff 2 3 ¢ Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ 4 Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ 4Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ œ j ‰ Yœ j ‰ œ j ‰ > > > > > > > > > > > > ff œ œ œ J ‰ J ‰ J ‰ J ‰ ff œ œ J ‰ J ‰ J Fig.4: Syncopated theme in strings and woodwinds (Movement II, mm.45–48) As a contrast, the harp accompanies a quieter, smoother theme on the violins, which also includes the twisting, chromatic motif from the first movement. In the middle, the music becomes increasingly chaotic until a climax on C is reached, with hope for resolution to the discord. However, the music slips into the key of B, and the strings play a restless, anxious version of the contrast theme. The frenetic energy of the first part gradually dissipates, and the movement collapses into a web of solo violins. The gyre motif has the final say. There are a number of themes in the third move- UME17S – v

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