Broadheath Music

Contemporary Classical Music by Frank Wilhoit

Symphony No. 4 in E-flat major, Op.22 (1974; 1991-94; 2010; 2014)


This symphony was completed in 2010 from sketches written in 1974. The first and last movements were composed in 1991-94; the second and third movements were added in 2010; and the whole was comprehensively revised (numerous, but mostly quite small, changes) in 2014.

The first movement (Allegro moderato, E-flat major, 6/4 - 9/4) concentrates almost exclusively on its opening motive, a six-note rising scale segment that is later often broken up into two groups of three notes. The only other important idea is a four-note motive with a dotted rhythm that ends in a rising fourth (or, sometimes, fifth); the "second theme" uses this motive more prominently, but the movement is essentially monothematic.

The second movement (Presto, G major, 3/4 - 2/4) is a scherzo with a slightly slower trio. Much of the material plays with the three-note scale fragments, downward as well as upward.

The third movement (Adagio maestoso, B minor/major, 3/4) is a funeral march in triple time. A sagging, grieving idea on wind instruments builds to a brief, angry climax and is followed by a hushed, consolatory melody for strings. As the movement progresses, the consolatory material gradually and fitfully supersedes the grief and forms the basis of the final triple-forte peak, after which a valedictory clarinet solo brings the movement to its close.

The main theme of the final movement (Vivace, E-flat major, 6/8) is a dipping, swooping tune that makes intensive use of hemiola (i.e., in this context, fake 3/4 time). This alternates with a group of marchlike motives, one of which turns into a "real" tune on the strings by way of a second theme. The development begins with a violently dissonant deceptive cadence, and contains another string tune that is only heard once and could almost be interpreted as the central episode of a rondo. The recapitulation brings back the exposition's material in scrambled order.

Copyright © 2015 Frank Wilhoit