Symphony No. 1 (1988)

Programme Note: John Buckley

The first sketches for Symphony No. 1 date from 1983 but the main work on the piece was done during 1987 and the early part of 1988. The first performance was given in June 1988 in the National Concert Hall, Dublin by the RTE Symphony Orchestra (now the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland) conducted by Albert Rosen.

The piece is in two movements, each of which falls into two large scale sections, giving the impression of a four movement work. These sections correspond loosely to the form of the classical and romantic symphony:

1st movement Slow introduction - fast
  Slow and lyrical
2nd movement Introduction - scherzo 1 - trio - scherzo 2
  Finale

The main musical material of the first movement is a rapid scale passage first heard on the strings. In conjunction with vigorous brass fanfares and woodwind and percussion interjections, this material is expanded and developed by a variety of means. The slow second section concentrates on a lyrical melodic growth and transformation of the earlier material.

The first scherzo of the second movement is built around short woodwind figures dramatically interrupted by brass and strings. The tranquil trio which features clarinet, oboe and flute melodies lightly accompanied by strings and harp is followed by the lively rhythmically impelled second scherzo. The final section of the work initially juxtaposes contrapuntal woodwind and strings with chordal writing for the brass. The rapid swirling scales of the first scherzo return to combine with the brass fanfares and metallic percussion to bring the work to an energetic and decisive conclusion.

While the Symphony is entirely concerned with musical materials and processes it draws much of its inspiration and character from the forces and patterns of natural phenomena and seasonal change; Winter-Spring in the first movement and Summer-Autumn in the second.

The symphony is dedicated to James Wilson, who was my composition teacher from 1971-1976.