Symphony for Chamber Orchestra
Julian Wagstaff


The basic ideas for a first symphony have been with me for some time. However, it was not until the Edinburgh University Chamber Orchestra approached me earlier this year with a request for an orchestral piece that the work received the impetus it required, and I was finally compelled to get the ìdotsî onto paper. (It should be said that this process has continued even as Michael and the orchestra have been rehearsing, and their forbearance in this regard has been greatly appreciated.)

Thankfully, though, the piece we shall hear this evening is fully complete. The symphony is essentially about tonalities - that is, musical keys, and the various ways in which different keys may co-exist, interact, conflict, dissolve and cohere. The work is cast in a single extended movement, stressing the organic character of the whole. This is not to say that there are not clearly discernible sections in the work ñ there are, and these may be briefly characterised as follows:

Introduction: Three pitches – C, B-flat and E-flat are introduced by the woodwinds. These are gradually joined by the other notes of the three corresponding major triads, as the winds are joined by other sections of the orchestra. When all of the pitches are present, we are left with a Bb13b5(no7) chord, which is carried by piano and pitched percussion under a trumpet fanfare as the introduction ends.

Exposition: Three contrasting principal themes in each of the three keys are introduced ñ by the strings (in C), woodwind (E-flat) and brass (B-flat / G minor) in turn.
Development: The three principal themes are developed, with use of the whole orchestra. During this section, too, each choir remains fixed within its own specified tonal zone or key.
Scherzo: Three loud tutti chords herald the start of the Scherzo, commencing with a statement of a new tune on flute and piccolo over a string ostinato. Gradually the tonal range of each choir is extended until all chromatic intervals are possible in all choirs.
Slow Section: During the slow section, the fringes of tonality are reached and explored, utilising the new chromatic freedoms realised during the scherzo.
Finale: The Finale takes the form of a deferred recapitulation of the three principal themes from the Exposition section. Chromatic possibilities are brought more tightly under control, and the symphony ends within the sphere of extended tonal harmony, realised across the entire orchestra.

Instrumentation Genre Ensemble (with conductor)
Tag orchestra
Duration 25 minutes
Instrumentation Flute [1 player]; Flute (+ piccolo) [1 player]; Oboe [2 players]; Clarinet [2 players]; Bassoon [2 players]; Horn [2 players]; Trumpet [2 players]; Timpani [1 player]; Percussion [2 players] (Bass drum, Cymbals, Glockenspiel, Tam-Tam, Triangle, Tubular Bells, Xylophone); Piano [1 player]; Violin 1 (section) [8 players]; Violin 2 (section) [8 players]; Viola (section) [6 players]; Cello [4 players]; Doublebass (section) [2 players]

Performances of this work

Date Venue Performer Link
12/11/2005 (*premiére) University of Edinburgh Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK Link to online catalogue

New Music Scotland will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. Please let us know all the ways you would like to hear from us:

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at We will treat your information with respect. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information to keep you updated with relevant new music (as defined on our website) news, events and invitations to submit information both by us and shared with us by the new music community.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp’s privacy practices here.