My first symphony was conceptualised during the final months of 1986, and the first bar of music (symbolically) actually committed
to paper on January 1st, 1987. The whole piece then took approximately two and a half months for me to compose.
The symphony is scored for a (percussion-heavy) chamber orchestra, and is a single-movement design that draws upon a
number of techniques and theories (some of them contradictory in intent!) in which I was interested at the time.
In my opinion the control of motion is as important a factor in symphonic construction as tonal, harmonic and motivic
development. In my second symphony I would set myself the task of composing each movement to a single metronome pulse, and
achieving what feel like different tempos by the use of differing note values in each of the sections. At the time I composed the first
symphony I was powerfully under the influence of Elliott Carter and employed his technique of ‘metric modulation’ through which
different metronome pulses can evolve. In essence this means that one imposes an irrational note value (ie. 5 notes in the space of 4)
and then evolves a new tempo by taking this irrational value and making it the basic rhythmic unit of the new tempo.
Having not long graduated from university, I was also interested in the different -isms to which I had been introduced during my
studies. Therefore 12-note serialism rubs shoulders with aleatoric passages, the ‘scherzo’ section has an almost big-band swing to it
(although even this is constructed from the basic 12-tone row), and most of the musicians, at some stage, are required to make sounds
with their instruments in ways that were probably not envisaged by their manufacturers!
The basis of the symphony is the all-interval row which had been employed by Berg in his ‘Lyric Suite’. This is a careful arrangement
of all twelve-tones of the chromatic scale so as to include all possible intervals from the minor second to the major seventh.
In its basic incarnation this has a beautifully balanced aspect in that the first 6 notes are all white notes on the piano, the next 5 are
black, and the final one a return to white. At the opening of the symphony I disclose first only the opening six notes, so that there
is a distinctly diatonic feel, despite the serial nature of the music’s construction.
The symphony as a whole, however, is not strictly serial. It is constructed in 15 sections. The introduction, scherzo and coda are
serial. The remaining 12 sections each take an interval from the ‘all-interval row’, in the same order as they are disclosed in the row,
and explore this interval.
The different sections are not discrete, and the whole singlemovement design has an arch-like structure that is not unrelated
to sonata-form. Within this single arch, however, is embedded a structure that resembles the four movement structure of a
traditional multi-movement symphony.
At its opening the music seems to appear as if from out of the ether. The desired effect is intended to be as if the music exists
before it becomes audible, and we (the listeners) are gradually able to tune in to it. At the end it dissolves into nothing, closing with a
note held by a single double bassist.
Above the closing notes I have inscribed the legend, ‘Elegia I.K.J.’ in memory of my paternal grandmother who died in 1986, although
the work is dedicated to my friend Celia Duffy who was an inspirational tutor of mine during my music ‘A’ Level and degree,
and remains one of my primary ‘sounding boards’ to this day!
Patrick Jonathan 13.3.07
The inspiration for this came from many places, but particularly his family. Each movement is based on the personality of his immediate family - his wife Debbie, daughter Leela, and sons Rohan and Kiran.
"I listened to your symphony and was most impressed. It's very powerful." Richard 'Tony' Arnell
As part of the premiere of his second symphony, he gave a question and answer session with the audience. This was an insight into not only his symphony, but his general style and vision behind all his music.
Below are Patrick's programme notes he wrote for the premiere in Arizona, USA.
Extract from middle of Movement 1
Extract from end of Movement 1
Extract from main theme of Movement 2
Extract from middle of Movement 2
Extract from opening of Movement 3
Extract from trio 1 of Movement 3
Extract from trio 3 of Movement 3
Extract from opening of Movement 4
Extract from middle of Movement 4
Extract from end of Movement 4
Patrick Jonathan: Symphony No 2 ‘DEBS’
The chief executive of an orchestra once remarked to me that the
piece of mine we’d been discussing seemed ‘deeply personal’ to me.
I nodded politely, while inside trying to fathom how it was possible
to compose music that wasn’t deeply personal.
Okay, there are
jobs that a composer does for money: music for film, theatre, radio,
etc. But, when I compose something for the concert platform -
something that I hope has some ambition for longevity that bears
my name, of course it is a deeply personal statement. There is such
a fund of great music, both regularly played and neglected, in
existence that there seems to be little point in bringing more into
the world unless impelled by a need from within to express
something that needs to be expressed.
Thus, my Second Symphony is deeply personal, but, I would
argue, not self-indulgent. It is in one sense a traditional symphony:
tonal and formal. It does, however, have a ‘hidden programme’ that
is hinted at by it’s subtitle: ‘DEBS’.
The symphony is dedicated to my wife, Debbie, who I call Debs.
From this fact grew the most important structural aspects of this
i) that it would be in progressive tonality;
ii) that it would
have four movements;
iii) that these movements would have
tonal centres derived from this subtitle: D E Bb Eb.
It is the conflict of these opening and closing tonalities - D and Eb
- physically adjacent but, in just about every other sense, almost
as distant from each other as can be, that gave birth to the
cacophonous quasi-polytonal opening. In the Sonata form
movement that follows, if the modulations are not strictly
traditional, this is because they are related to and prefigure the
tonal centres we are to visit later in the symphony: the essence of
In the finale you will notice a very extended, still, pensive central
section. This music, in the centre of this movement in Eb,
ritualistically revisits the keys of Bb, E and D, thus providing a
retrograde recapitulation of the tonal scheme of the preceding three
movements. As I’ve said, the work is dedicated to my wife, and the ‘hidden
programme’ concerns her and my three children.
As the conductor,
Warren Cohen, commented, it is - in a sense - a domestic
symphony! My oldest child is a daughter, Leela, and my younger two are
boys, Rohan and Kiran. In this symphony I have melodic themes
that, in my mind and heart, are related to these members of my
The wildly impetuous main theme of the first movement is Debbie’s theme. This is apt. The name Deborah is derived from
Hebrew and means a busy bee. My wife is a whirlwind of energy.
The beautiful theme of the second (slow) movement is Leela’s
theme. Every father is biased, but - I have to say - not even the
most beautiful melodic theme in the world could come close to
matching the beauty of my daughter!
The third movement is a scherzo with multiple trios. The theme of
the first trio represents Rohan, the second Kiran. For a third trio
these themes combine, swapping position from top to bottom as
though the boys are rough and tumbling, as they often do.
The still centre of the finale, mentioned before, is my theme. Another structural feature is that the work is, in a way, a piece of
two halves. The tonality of the first half is heading sharpward, that
of the second favouring the flats. The first two movements are ‘feminine’, the second two ‘masculine’. This division made explicit
by the way in which the opening of the second movement echoes
and recasts the cadence of the first; and the opening of the finale
echoes and recasts the close of the third.
The final important structural aspect of the symphony is the way
in which, as a composer, I have handled time. Each of the
movements is a study of different rates of movement, but each
actually has a single metronome marking for its entire length. All of
the different rates of movement can be felt against a single,
controlling, underlying pulse. The true art of composition, though, is the ability to
communicate. By attempting to create, in turn, the most thrilling,
energetic, thoughtful, heartfelt, poised, beautiful, texturally varied,
contrapuntal music I am capable of at this point in my life, I hope
that an ‘innocent listener’, ie. one who has no knowledge of ‘hidden
programmes’, tonal schemes or any of the other things mentioned
above will be moved by the honesty and drama of this piece.
P. Jonathan 16.12.06
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