December 10th, 2021
RNCM Brand New Orchestra
Conducted by Xinjie Yang
Royal Northern College of Music,
As one might have guessed from the title, this piece is in 2 parts. Gradually accelerating throughout, the opening passage of the Introduction is structured around a set of static chords, each rising a minor third, bridged with increasingly powerful wind passages. Once the chords find themselves back where they started (on an E), the second half of the introduction begins – an intense fugato led by the strings with the brass extracting a wedge-shaped, quasi-chorale from the counterpoint foreshadowing the entry of the Brucknerian ‘theme’ to come.
Not what one would consider a ‘theme’ in the conventional sense, the Bruckner in question is a modulatory chord progression used to build to the climactic end of the first movement of his 9th Symphony. Whilst aspects of it can be found throughout the introduction, its first full appearances serve a similar purpose in my piece, emerging from the orchestral fugato in the lower brass as the ever more tense introduction reaches its precipice.
The Allegro deciso bursts free in a new version of the fugato, this time in a fast 6/8 metre. Soon the Brucknerian theme returns in the brass in what could be described as a quasi-chorale prelude above the fugato. Each entrance it develops further, becoming a palindrome and eventually morphing back into the wedge-chorale from the introduction. At the first peak of the allegro, and at the pinnacle of the palindrome comes the quintal chord from the opening in full violent tutti. The retreating half of the palindrome doesn’t stop and this time folds the wedge all the way back to a single pitch – B-flat.
What follows is another nod to Bruckner – a slow build to the end via a cycle of 5ths, on each ledge sitting a dark echo of the theme, gradually returning to the light and the tonal home of E. On the penultimate ‘ledge’ the energy of the fugato returns and the theme appears majestically in harmony with the fugal subjects before briefly retreating to mysteriousness via a reversal of the chords in the wind. Out of the depths emerges the progression, this time faster and continually building to a massive, final climactic cadence, reminiscent of the piece’s Brucknerian origins.
Copyright © Matthew Holmes, 2021.
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