A Vision and a Journey

David Matthews (1943)

A Vision and a Journey 1996

3333 - 4331 - timp - perc(3) - cel - harp - strings (10.8.6.6.6 min)
Duration 
22
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

A Vision and a Journey is the fourth in a series of orchestral works I have been writing over the past eight years: it follows In The Dark (1985), Chaconne (1987) and The Music of Dawn (1990). I have called these three pieces symphonic poems, maintaining a Sibelian distinction between that title and the symphony (I have also written four of these). A Vision and a Journey has, I think, even more of a symphonic character than the others, and so I have called it a symphonic fantasy, again after Sibelius (Pohjola=s Daughter).

A Vision and a Journey was composed between July 1992 and March 1993. The title indicates the two kinds of music that are integral to the piece. I imagined a journey, perhaps across some wide, open space, which at several points would be redirected after the occurrence of >visionary moments=. These are three such moments, the first two characterized by descending and the third by ascending scales. Another recurring idea is a three-note, bell-like motif, which is heard at the beginning of the piece after a preliminary scherzando flourish, and which is the basic motif of the whole work. The >journey= begins with a rising arc for solo strings (bass, cello, viola, violin) and, after the first >vision=, a broad section, mostly for strings alone, somewhat akin to a 17th-century fantasia. After the second >vision= comes an Andante whose long melodic lines are given mostly to oboe and cor anglais, here taking on obbligato roles. A brief scherzo section acts as a bridge to the recapitulation, first of the solo string passage, transferred to brass (horn, trombone, trumpet) against a background of tuned percussion and string harmonics; then, following a third >vision= with forceful rising scales on trombones, of the fantasia, now scored for full orchestra. After the climax, the music subsides into E major, a key that has been glimpsed from the start, for an extended meditation on solo violin, viola and cello. The bell motif returns, as at the start; the music swell up, and there is a long pause. A short coda integrates the rising scales of the initial scherzando flourish with those of the third >vision=, and the piece ends with a display of energy, over a pedal D - the note on which it had started.

A Vision and a Journey was commissioned by the BBC, and first performed by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier at the Royal Northern College of Music on 21 October 1993. In March 1996 I began a thorough revision which was completed in March 1997.

David Matthews

Performances 
21.10.93, RNCM, Manchester: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Yan Pascal Tortelier
18.10.03 St John's Smith Square, London: Kensington Symphony Orchestra/Russell Keable
15.11.07 St Petersburg British Music Festival, Russia: State Academic Orchestra/Matthew Taylor
3.12.07 RNCM, Manchester: BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
3
Flute
3rd doubling piccolo
3
Oboe
3rd doubling cor anglais
3
Clarinet
3rd doubling bass clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd doubling contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
3
Percussion
bass drum, conga, bongos, 2 suspended cymbal, chinese cymbal, 2 tam-tam, tambourine, triangle, castanets, 2 cow bells, vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, 9 crotales, 5 tubular bells
10
Violin
8
Violin II
6
Viola
6
Cello
6
Double bass
1
Harp
1
Piano
celesta
(Esc)