RTC-24: 1960 Symphony for Strings

Commission: McGill Chamber Orchestra and Canada Council
Length: 27 min.
Completed: 6 September 1960, Vancouver
Premiere: 1961-03-27, McGill Chamber Orch., Alexander Brott (cond.)

  1. 1965-03-02, CBC Vancouver Chamber Orch., John Avison (cond.)
  2. 1967-09-03, CBC Vancouver Chamber Orch., John Avison (cond.)

Publication: BMI

  1. Ovation Volume 4, CBC Records, PSCD 2029-4
  2. CBC Vancouver Chamber Orch., John Avison (cond.), RCA CCS-1008,Radio Canada International, RCI 214 (1960)
  3. CBC Vancouver Chamber Orch., John Avison (cond.), Robert Turner: ACM 15, 1983

The work was commissioned by the McGill Chamber Orchestra of Montreal on a grant from the Canada Council and completed in September 1960. It was first performed by that orchestra under the direction of Alexander Brott on 27 March 1961. The composer has supplied the following commentary on his work: “The symphony is in three movements – Allegro appassionato; Allegretto capriccioso (Intermezzo) and Andante espressivo (Passacaglia). The first is in sonata form, employing three contrasted themes – the second and third being derived from the first. The short second movement is piquant and burlesque in character. The theme of the main section is played at the outset by the violas and later taken up by the cellos, both times accompanied by a rhythmic choral accompaniment (guitar-like) for the other instruments. The movement’s middle section (Trio) uses a theme in triplets, more scherzando in style. After the return of the main theme in the violas, the two themes are combined in the coda. Such string effects as pizzicato, harmonics, col legno, ponticello, etc. are a prominent feature of the movement. The last movement is built on an eight-bar 12-tone “ground bass” (the last four bars being an inversion of the first four), which is followed by 21 variations. The last six vatiations incorporate the three themes form the first movement and after building to a climax, the work ends quietly with muted strings. The tonal centres of the three movements are C, E-flat and C, respectively.”

[Ovation 4]