Paul Patterson has a strong connection with Polish musicians; he frequently visits Poland and has had numerous performances of his music there. The Polish Chamber Orchestra in particular have played a number of his works and after the success of their performance of Cracowian Counterpoints at the 1979 Warsaw Festival they commissioned him to write the Sinfonia for Strings with financial help from the Arts Council of Great Britain. They premiered It under conductor Jerzy Maksymiuk at the 1983 Warsaw Autumn Festival.

It has three movements, the first of which resembles sonata form. One is catapulted into the movement with a bold opening statement of the first subject material; this consists of five short, snappy modules clearly set out at first, but soon they merge into a larger, complex whole. M a contrast to this mass of activity, the second subject is light and witty and is sparsely scored. These two diverse elements are then developed, often making use of rapid juxtapositions featuring solo players. There is a telescoped recapitulation of the first subject which leads to the final climax and an unexpected twist ending with a soft fragment of the second subject.

The mood changes in the second movement: it is subdued, the lines are long and lyrical. The thematic and accompanying figures are based on the Intervals of a tone and a semi-tone. After a choral-like introduction the movement grows with a tune on the second ‘violins over a gradually rising cello and bass accompaniment; the first violins take over in canon with the violas. A short fragmented section follows; these fragments are then woven into a passage with high violins and violas taking the accompaniment heard earlier on the low instruments. This leads to a contrapuntal climax where the fragments are brought close together; a short, falling-away passage brings the movement to a close.

The last movement is a jolly 98 scherzando. A jaunty theme first heard on the violins appears several times on the other instruments and is punctuated by episodes of flamboyant string writing including fast double-stopped passages, col legnos and virtuoso solos using ricochet bowing. The movement ends with a short restatement of the opening flourish.

It is a virtuoso work requiring great technical and musical agility from the players. There are difficult notes and cross-rhythms and more Importantly it demands the widest variety of expression with rapid changes of mood, texture, sonority and dynamics.

© Stefan de Haan


Written 1982

String Orchestra

Length 18′

Commission: Jerzy Maksymiuk for Polish Chamber Orchestra
Dedication: ‘To Jerzy Maksymiuk’
Publisher: Universal Edition

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