Symphony No. 3 (2005)


  • 42
  • 2(2=fl/picc).2.2.2 timp, perc(2), strings

Score Excerpts

Sound Samples

  • Mvt. 1 excerpt – Saskatoon Symphony, Douglas Sanford
  • Mvt. 2 excerpt – Saskatoon Symphony, Douglas Sanford

Program Notes

For a certain number of composers, a group into which I put myself, the composing of symphonies is both a supreme challenge and a supreme joy. For many composers of my time the symphony as a form has fallen out of favour. For some this is a practical matter, since the difficulties of having large symphonic works performed are remarkably daunting. An excellent example of this is the 1972 orchestral work by R. Murray Schafer, …No longer than ten minutes. Schafer was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony to write the work, and took the title from a line in the commissioning agreement which stipulated the length of the work. This was Schafer’s humourous, but also somewhat barbed, jibe at the reluctance of Canadian orchestras to encourage the creation of large symphonic compositions. That these practical difficulties deter composers from writing symphonies is hardly surprising, but it is not the only reason that there are relatively few contemporary symphonies, particularly in Canada. The other reason is a sense shared by many composers that the “symphony” as a form or structural entity is anachronistic, a museum-piece remnant from the 18th and 19th centuries. For some, the symphony is something that simply seems odd, quaint, and somewhat out of place, like a powdered wig; for others is represents something more insidious, such as the exploitation of the working class or a throwback to a Eurocentric view of the arts.

Though I understand these perspectives, the symphony remains for me both a vital form and a special challenge. With this work, my third symphony, I have chosen a different structure than in my first (four movements) or second (three movements). The work that you will hear tonight is in two movements, essentially one fast and one slow. I might say that I have tried to make the first movement the visceral heart of the work, and the second movement the emotional heart. As I frequently do in my music, there are musical ideas which occur between movements (Berlioz is an important model for this). Regarding the character of the work, I hope that the music speaks for itself. Perhaps the best thing for me to say in this regard is to mention some of my own compositional influences, which include Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Schnittke, and, more recently, Scandinavian composers Pettersson and Aho.

Finally, I shall mention that this work represents the final piece of my two-year residency with the Saskatoon Symphony. This time has been a creatively fertile one for me, having written four pieces for the SSO. I would like to take the opportunity to express my thanks publicly to Douglas Sanford, Karen Conway, and the musicians of the Saskatoon Symphony; all of these people have, with their talents and generosity of spirit, made my time with the orchestra an exciting and enjoyable experience which I shall never forget.

Symphony No. 3 is dedicated to Douglas Sanford and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.