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Nigel Keay - Symphony in Five Movements (1996)

Total Duration: 24 minutes. Movement 1; Introduction - Moderato 3'53", Movement 2; Andante 3'32", Movement 3; Scherzo - Vivace 5'09", Movement 4; Andante 6'17", Movement 5; Allegro Moderato 5'28".

Listen to the performance of the Auckland Philharmonia recorded by Concert FM, a network of Radio New Zealand Radio New Zealand logo Symphony in Five Movements mp3

Start of Movement 2: 3' 50", Movement 3: 7' 22", Movement 4: 12' 27" Movement 5: 18' 45". For direct links to audio URLs (separate movements) go to the Audio Page.

Instrumentation: 3 Flutes (3rd doubling Piccolo), 2 Oboes (2nd doubling Cor Anglais), 2 Clarinets (2nd doubling Bass Clarinet) 1 Bassoon, Contrabassoon, 4 Horns in F, 2 Trumpets in C, 2 Tenor Trombones, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Timpnani, 3 Percussion (Snare Drum, Tom toms, Bass Drum, Triangle, Suspended Cymbal, Bell Tree, Chinese Cymbal, Cymbals, Tam tam, Castanets, Maracas, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Tubular Bells), Harp, Strings.
Symphony in Five Movements was composed in Auckland in 1995/96 for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra as part of its Composer-in-Residence programme. It was first performed on the 1st August 1996 in a concert at the Aotea Centre, Auckland as part of a Main Series programme.

A central idea to the Symphony concerns aspects of timing. Its form was partially inspired by the martial arts treatise Go Rin No Sho (A Book of Five Rings), which considers timing and its relationship to strategy.  The five books are: Ground, Water, Fire, Wind & Void. There is a loose correspondence between the inspiration behind some of the movements and each of the “books.” Thus, the third movement refers to the book of tradition “wind,”and consequently, is modelled on a scherzo, not only paying tribute to Beethoven, but in a broader sense indicating the desire to give the entire work a historical reference. 

The Introduction or first movement is analogous to the “ground” book (the path), outlining the Symphony’s musical ideas.

The fifth movement (“void”) has a strongly rhythmic structure with contemporary influence throughout, reflected in, and overlayed with its violin-based lyrical stream.

This strongly linear work was described by Denys Trussell in a subsequent review for Quote Unquote after its Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra performance in 1996 (conducted by Enrique Diemecke) as being "rich with feeling and atmosphere."

Denys Trussell's review published in the February 1997 edition of Quote Unquote after its Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra performance in 1996:

"Nigel Keay's Symphony In Five Movements... is an introspective work of primeval musical struggle, its aural shapes emerging from that undifferentiated state of sound before it broke out of the mass of the uncreated to become figures of vibrant air. This important, proto-musical zone was explored at times both by Bruckner and Wagner. The five movements relate to five chapters of The Book Of Five Rings, a martial arts treatise. These chapters "Ground", "Fire", "Water", "Wind" and "Void" - have a loose correspondence to the music, particularly "Void" with the last movement. Within its primordial nothingness lies tremendous potential. It was this potential I felt the work attempted to map, using the flux of sound. ....it was rich with feeling and atmosphere."

The fourth and fifth movements were given a reading by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hamish McKeich at the NZSO - SOUNZ Readings in October 2001 in Wellington.

Peter Mechen reviewed this event, and wrote:

"Nigel Keay’s Symphony in Five Movements (1996) was the first featured work, the composer submitting the final two movements of the piece for rehearsal and performance. Keay drew some of his inspiration for the Symphony from a treatise on martial arts which considers the relationship of timing to strategy, loosely correlating sections of the book with the movements of the Symphony. The fourth movement uses scherzo-form, acknowledging the traditional sonata-structure, while the fifth movement’s strongly rhythmical character intersperses a string-based lyrical flow with contemporary colouristic influences.

The composer obviously enjoys the full orchestral palette enormously, and prefers to blend rather than « block in » the colours at his disposal. A clarinet solo begins the scherzo-movement, breathing life into slumbering, subterranean matter whose string-infused textures are galvanised by the sharper glint of the brass. The music’s deep-toned and lushly-harmonised aspect contrasts well with the last movement’s breezy, « out-of-doors » quality, with soaring string lines and clarion brass calls at the opening. The movement’s undulating aspect seems to be achieved by a piecing-together of surprisingly volatile individual voices - evident when Hamish McKeich rehearsed the string section separately - and some intricate dovetailing of rhythms through and around the central « lyrical stream ». I particularly enjoyed a beautiful coalescing episode involving different strands of colour, just before an abrupt coda put an end to all argument."

Source; Peter Mechen's New Zealand Music Reviews under the section "Live Performances (Events)".