Composed in 2013, Symphony No. 1 was commissioned by the Ensemble Orchestral de Bruxelles and its conductor, Jacques Vanherenthals, to celebrate the Ensemble’s 20th anniversary.
The work is articulated in three movements. The first (Lento – Allegretto – Doppio più lento) opens with a long expressive prelude played on the strings, a prelude based on two motifs (A and B) taken up in imitation by the different music stands. These are gradually joined by the brass instruments, which play another motif in canon in long values (C) and the woodwinds, which introduce a more rhythmic motif in fast values (D), also taken up in canon. The four motifs are superimposed in an increasingly tense manner until the tempo changes abruptly (Allegretto). D becomes the generating motif of this section, exposed to the flutes, then taken up by the oboes and clarinets in increasingly tighter canons. Supported by the percussion, the other sections, brass and strings, take up D in an increasing manner and always in imitation. Various sudden modulations lead to the climax that corresponds to the beginning of the third section (Doppio più lento). The lyrical atmosphere of the beginning returns with a new motif, E, which will mark out the whole of the last section until the end, joined by the other motifs that come to be superimposed on it.
The second movement (Andante) is in ABA’ form. A pedal note played alternately by the pizzicati cellos and a timpani serve as the basis for the unfolding of a three-bar melody (A) played on the clarinet, each bar being superimposed on the other two, allowing it to be taken up again in canon by the flute and oboe. This is followed by a motif B, played on the bass clarinet and English horn, which is superimposed on A. The overall colour is dark and tragic and the dramatic intensity gradually increases until the orchestral climax that brings the B section. The B section has a brighter character, developing a virtuoso dialogue between the different desks of the orchestra. At the end of this section, the A motif returns in superimposition with its different elements. The last section, A’, sees the return of the motifs A and B, motifs that slowly disappear in a dreamlike atmosphere.
The third and last movement (Vivo) has a very playful and virtuosic character mixing various rhythmic or lyrical elements that lead to a brilliant finale.
The world premiere by the Ensemble Orchestral de Bruxelles under the direction of Jacques Vanherenthals took place in the Royal Conservatory of Brussels on 14 March 2014. It will be performed in the same place and by the same performers on 16 March 2014.