Broadheath Music

Contemporary Classical Music by Frank Wilhoit

Symphony No. 5 in A major, Op.26 (1998-2000; 2014)


This symphony was completed in 2014. The first and second movements were composed in 1998 and 2000, respectively, along with the exposition of the fourth; the fourth movement was completed and the third movement composed in 2014.

The entire work is based upon a "synthetic scale", a collection of eight pitch classes: A B C C# D# E F# G . This collection is asymmetrical and therefore contains different melodic and harmonic resources if any of the eight pitch classes is tonicized; in other words, it sounds different from each of the eight possible perspectives or (to stretch the word almost to the point of misuse) "keys".

The first movement (Gavotte: Non troppo presto, A major, 2/2) presents two contrasting themes, each underpinned by a characteristic ostinato pattern. The themes undergo gradual motivic transformation while being worked out in sonata form. A was chosen as the overall tonic of the work, as it is the vantage point from which the tonal material can be navigated most easily and widely.

The second movement (Estampie: Allegro pesante, C major, 3/4) is a scherzo in a free rondo form, with various episodes between occurrences of the opening ritornello. The key of C offers somewhat less variety of tonal material, which is perhaps reflected in the stomping repetitions of the opening.

The third movement (Sarabande: Larghetto, E minor, 3/4) finds itself in a still narrower place, its themes turning back upon themselves, unable to make any decisive breakthrough into contrasting tonal territory. By the end, paralysis is nearly complete, all of the motives flattened out into a slow half-step oscillation. Something has to happen....

The final movement (Gigue: Presto, A major, 3/8) returns to the key and the motivic material of the first movement, transformed into a hectic scramble. The exposition ends in E minor, the same key where the slow movement got trapped, but then shows that the way out is (or would have been) through A minor; "minorish" and "majorish" A compete to the end, with major eventually coming out on top.

Copyright © 2015 Frank Wilhoit