This symphony was written between December 2003 and May 2004. It was commissioned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra following their performances with Nicholas McGegan of my string piece Hommage à Clarence in 2003 – subsequently included in the European tour programme in the summer of 2004. This new symphony is dedicated to the Irish Chamber Orchestra and Nicholas McGegan.
There are three main movements – Scherzo impetuoso, with much use of sul ponticello effects in the central section, Largo and Allegro con moto, which is marked throughout by a persistent rhythmic figure. Each of these is preceded by a recitative-like section, the first being the most elaborate. The second is sung by the cellos with echoes from the violas and the third is played muted and very quietly by various solo instruments within the orchestra over a sustained F sharp on the principal viola.
Throughout the symphony the original material is interwoven with motifs taken from two versions of the hymn tune Jesu meine Freude. The first of these, which is encountered in the earlier parts of the work, is the original version by Johann Crüger, published in 1653. Later, motifs from the second version, J.S. Bach’s chorale setting, are used within the texture of the music, until finally this emerges complete, played by a quartet of three violas and cello underpinned by the characteristic rhythm of the movement and punctuated with comments from the orchestra. A short emphatic Coda marked vivace then completes the symphony.