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Programme Notes: Symphonies


Symphony 1 'Yr Wyddfa’ - ‘Snowdon’ Opus 37

This was an adventure! To dare to write a Symphony! The initial inspiration came from Sibelius 7, with its recurring brass climax surrounded, as it were, by the foothills of thematic activity. Mountainous moments, which led me to think of my ‘own’ mountain,Yr Wyddfa. I was born in Llanberis. And so here similar moments emerge from the clouds, based on a three-note motif from an early organ-piece entitled ‘Viele Strassen’ (‘Many roads’). Like Sibelius 7, this tries to do everything in one movement. The music is complex and urgent, with a recurring driving ostinato, seemingly ever present, lyrical passages and periodic moments of geological violence from the brass using the three note motif.

Leudelange, Luxembourg, 1989 

Dedicated to Ifor Jones


Symphony 2 Opus 87 

Three movements, written on Christmas Eve 1995. In fact the 3rd Symphony followed three days later, and the 4th early in 1996. These three works form a natural group: their expression and evolution is connected and continuous. Here a sad, searching movement is followed by a strident lament. The 3rd movement is more active and motivic.

I recorded the 2nd and 3rd Symphonies with Musici de Praga in the State Opera House, Prague and the first performances came later in the Klementinum as well as in two Prague churches.

Mersch, Luxembourg, Christmas Eve, 1995

Dedicated to Ulrike Wiedenbach

Symphony 3 Opus 88

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Symphonies form a natural group: their expression and evolution is connected and continuous. Uneasy music, followed by a movement of complex rhythmic patterns, and an idyllic adagio based on ever-assembling chords. Finally an aggressive, dark finale with moments of hope, light and consolation.

I recorded the 2nd and 3rd Symphonies with Musici de Praga in the State Opera House, Prague and the first performances came later in the Klementinum as well as in two Prague churches.

Mersch, Luxembourg, Christmas, 1995

Dedicated to Ulrike Wiedenbach

Symphony 4 Opus 89

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Symphonies form a natural group: their expression and evolution is connected and continuous. In the 1st movement tritonal motifs dominate, followed by a wistful, restless scherzo. The slow movement builds quietly and gradually towards elegiac climaxes before the will o’ the wisp finale which becomes increasingly frenetic before stabilising towards the end.

Mersch, Luxembourg, January 1996

Symphony 5 ‘Spring' Opus 97

This symphony marks a turning point, reflecting a significant change in my life in 1996 and reflected in this happier, more consonant music. It opens with an ostinato, much like the opening of the 1st Symphony but now supporting a triumphant, energy-filled A major chord. Brightness, life and light! A questioning and restless ‘second subject’, a chorale variant of the same interrupts before the eventual return of the opening which gives a victorious conclusion. A somewhat Brahmsian scherzo follows, then an elegiac 3rd movement building towards a significant climax just before the end. Another ostinato texture and a broad theme, first given to the horn, open the finale. Momentum and intensity increase step by step, with gathering chords preceding each new phase.

Buschdorf, Luxembourg, 1996

Dedicated to Ulrike Wiedenbach and the Spring of 1996

Symphony 6 Opus 100 

Written for string orchestra, in 5 movements, opening with slow, meditative contrapuntal music with ever increasing intensity, followed by a quirky and at times bi- or polytonal dance-like movement. A troubled 3rd movement, lyrical upper strings with aggressive, pizzicato counter-theme in cello and bass. A further almost Beethovenian slow movement follows, strong chord progressions contradicted by restless and at times hysterical high violins. The 5th movement offers night music, lower string tremolandi, bleak chords in the upper strings, an austere dialogue, uncompromising and questioning.

Buschdorf, Luxembourg, 1997

Dedicated to Ulrike Wiedenbach

Symphony 7 ‘Rhagrybudd - Premonition’ Opus 127

Written for my mother, who died after the work was finished and therefore the title.

One movement. A strong and emotional piece with some affinities to my Symphonic Poem ‘Y Chwarel - The Quarry’. It opens with a a simple theme, This motto theme returns several times, as does a contrasting bitter-sweet lyrical passage.

Buschdorf, Luxembourg, 2000

Dedicated to Mair, my Mother

Symphony 8 Opus 130 

Three moments for string orchestra. Demanding questions with some half-consolatory answers, a beautiful, peaceful and very romantic adagio and a restless finale with persistent pizzicato lower strings.

Canach, Luxembourg, 2000

Dedicated to my Youngest Sister

Symphony 9 ‘Hochkönig’ Opus 186

Symphony No. 9, Hochkönig, is named after the Hochkönig mountain range in the Salzkammergut in Austria. A majestic and awesome place, which inspires, thrills and frightens with every visit. This is the first of a whole series of Symphonies and other works I have written which have been inspired by my extended stays in Austria. The music is based on the events of two days in the summer of 2009, and is therefore entirely personal in nature. The four movements may be labelled, in true Romantic fashion, Tension (my state of mind upon arrival in Maria Alm, nearby), Idyll (with woodwind dialogues and even a Ländler) Grandeur and Storm (Grandeur speaks for itself – the Storm derives from one of the most violent experiences of my life, a sudden and vicious electrical storm which caught me by surprise on an exposed slope below a summit. The hailstones might well have killed me ..... ) and .... Hochkönig, for me the most imposing place on the planet, a cathedral of stone ..... Precisely because this is a ‘Ninth’ I am not ashamed to evoke other, far greater works which share the number. A supplementary, expanded brass band is substituted for the large choir!

Canach, Luxembourg, 2009

Dedicated to Anton

Symphony 10 Opus 190 

A one movement work for strings. Elegiac, mysterious, climactic.

Fachwen, Wales and Canach, Luxembourg, 2010

Dedicated to Ulrike Wiedenbach

Symphony 11 'Bergsymphonie - Mountain Symphony’ Opus 191

The 1st movement is fleeting and transitory, based on the tonally ambiguous opening idea. The 2nd is very Austrian in that it has the feel of Mahler or Bruckner to it. This style seems, at least to me, to be embedded in the mountains. I can’t better it. The opening of the 1st movement returns for the finales as does the Austrian mood.

Hintermoos, Hinterthal, Austria and Canach, Luxembourg, 2011-2012

Symphony 12 'Hallstatt' Opus 204

I visited Hallstatt for the first time in 2011, and again in 2012. I was struck not only by the beautiful location, but also by the tangible atmosphere of past hardship and suffering.

The Symphony has four movements:

1. Hallstättersee, the Lake with its undercurrents and differing temperature layers:

2. Keltensalz (Celt Salt), with a marching rhythm evoking the ascent and descent of the near vertical mountain walls which rise from the town up to the ghostly salt mines high above, with workings dating back to prehistory:

3. Unterbrochener Ländler (Interrupted Ländler) - a typical Austrian idyll disrupted and later distorted by the sight of twenty tuba players crossing the lake in a large salt barge (I saw this!) and their deep, minor key chorale. Finally:

4. In Memoriam Ubi Caritas, in which this beautiful gregorian melody is interrupted by the Lutheran chorale 'Ein fester Burg ist unser Gott', an evocation of that terrible night when Protestant populations were expelled not only from Hallstatt but from much of Austria, often with only 30 minutes warning, an act of ferocious religious 'cleansing'. After all of this, the lake music returns, and our idyll seeks to continue, despite everything.

Written in Hallstatt, Vienna, Austria - Venice, Italy, - Hinterthal, Austria and Canach, Luxembourg, 2012

Ich besuchte Hallstatt zum ersten Mal 2011, dann wieder 2012. Ich war nicht nur von der Schönheit der Lage beeindruckt, sondern hauptsächlich von dem Wiederhall der bewegten Geschichte dieser Stadt.

Die Symphonie umfasst vier Sätze:

1. Hallstätter See, mit seinen Strömungen und unterschiedlichen Temperaturen in den verschiedenen Wassertiefen.

2. Keltensalz, mit einem Marschrhythmus, der an die Mühseligkeit des Salzabbaus seit uralten Zeiten von dem oberhalb Hallstatt liegenden Berg erinnern soll.

3.Unterbrochener Ländler- typische österreichische Idylle, gestört und verzerrt durch meine Erinnerung an Choräle in Moll, gespielt von 20 Tubaspielern, die in 2011 den See in einer Salzbarge überquerten.

4.In Memoriam Ubi Caritas, reine gregorianische Melodie, die unterbrochen wird durch "ein feste Burg ist unser Gott", als Erinnerung an die fürchterliche Nacht, als die protestantische Bevölkerung, - nicht nur in Hallstatt, sondern überall in Österreich - als Akt von religiöser Säuberung oft innerhalb von 30 Minuten Vorwarnung ihre Häuser verlassen mußten und einer ungewissen Zukunft in der Ferne ausgesetzt waren.

Zum Schluß des Satzes kehrt das See-Thema zurück, die Idylle setzt sich durch trotz alledem.


Symphony No. 13 'Attersee' Op 211

Inspired by a visit to Mahler's composing house at Attersee. The references to Mahler's Second Symphony are absolutely intentional. Full Austrian mode! There are three movements.

Hinterthal, Austria and Canach, Luxembourg, April 2013

In Memoriam Gustav Mahler

Symphony 14 ‘Venice' Opus 201

1 'Serenissima'

    Venice, across the Lagoon, grey, melancholy, shifting, unreal …

2 'Vivaldissimo'

Canach, Luxembourg, April 2013

Symphony 15 'Jedermann - Everyman’ Opus 217

I wrote this music shortly before seeing a production of the medieval mystery play Jedermann (Everyman) given in front of Salzburg Cathedral, and found to my surprise that what I had written was almost a premonition of this work which teaches that the pleasures of life, however wild and joyful, cannot influence or postpone our mortality ….

1:  Introduction, life in transit

2: 'Weisenblasen mit Schatten - Overshadowed Air’

3:  Scherzo für Anton Bruckner

4: 'Ask not for whom the bell tolls ... '

HInterthal, Austria, Summer 2013

Symphony 16 ‘St. Bartholomä’ Opus 219

Every year on the Saturday after 24 August (St. Bartholomew's Day), up to 3,000 pilgrims travel over the mountains known as the Steinernes Meer (sea of rocks) from Maria Alm in Austria's Salzburger Land to St. Bartholomew peninsula on Lake Königssee in Germany's Berchtesgadener Land. The pilgrimage is thought to date back to 1635, when citizens of Salzburg first crossed the mountains to reach St. Bartholomew's Church as a symbol of thanksgiving to the Lord for having saved them from the plague.

1: Nachtaufstieg – Sonnenaufgang – Bergmesse

From around 0300 we climb from Maria Alm to the Riemannhaus, the Sommerstein ahead to the right, the sunrise ever nearer ..... the pressure of hundreds of people following on the narrow track ensures a good and constant pace. At the top the Trachtenkapelle from Maria Alm waits, encouraging us with short fanfares. Eventually the mountaintop mass begins …..

2: Über das steinerne Meer

Crossing the desolate and occasionally grotesque ‘Stone Ocean’ ….. a very long column, exposed to whatever the weather decides to do, no rest, no shelter. The brass fanfares encourage us further .…. and further …. and further …..

3: Kärlingerhaus

Vegetation reappears; we lose height and approach the Funtensee, crossing into Germany. At Kärlingerhaus a chance to relax, hear the band and have a beer or two ….. relief, that the most strenuous part of the day is behind us!

4: Aufbruch - Saugasse – Königssee

The march goes on, descending the vertiginous and breathtaking Saugasse on the way to the Königsee, where we meet Bavarian friends, have a beer and relax to the sounds of the Mass in the beautiful church of St. Bartholomä. This part of the pilgrimage is over ….. for another year …..

Canach, Luxembourg, September 2013

Symphony 17 ‘Winter' Opus 222

Written in two days (Christmas Day and Boxing Day, 2013), this Symphony follows the journey of Winter, 

beginning in November, when summer finally dies for good, but with a hint of light and excitement as the month progresses .…. 

Advent, silver light, activity, anticipation ….. 

Christmas, warm cosiness and comfort at the darkest part of the year, although the reality of this solstice appears in the middle section which provides an abrupt relief from all this sweetness and light, 

and finally January, in which the bleakness and stillness are punctuated by frantic attempts at good cheer, and here I think back to St. Petersburg at the close of the 19th century: ballroom dancing and manic sleigh rides. But they are not real …..

Canach, Luxembourg, Christmas 2013

Dedicated to Lin and David Charlston

Symphony 18 Opus 232 

Four movements, the 1st urgent, the 2nd very calm, the 3rd after the brass introduction a perpetual mobile, tonally ambiguous, the 4th essentially pastoral, calm despite increasing activity.

Canach, Luxembourg, 2014

Symphony 19 ‘Selbhorn' Opus 234 

This one movement Symphony evokes the Selbhorn, an isolated mountain peak at HInterthal in Austria. Using so-called skyline thematic painting, where the melodic outline is derived from the physical shape of the mountain, a number of visions and impressions occur and recur, some mighty, others terrifying, pleasant, gemütlich, cold, ethereal ..... The initial thematic outline undergoes many transformations throughout the work.

Hinterthal, Austria, 2014

Symphony 20 'The Miracle Of Zattere’ Opus 238

I heard a sad man playing bits of themes on an old violin, very badly, never finishing a thought, on a square in Venice. On the way home I imagined if once, just once, the REAL spirit of music would allow him to soar, to be lyrical, before returning to the mechanical scraping again. This is the point of my Symphony 20 'The Miracle of Zattere’. 

Hinterthal, Austria in summer 2014.

Dedicated to an Unknown Street Violinist in Zattere

Symphony 21 ‘Mosel’ Opus 249

A symphonic tribute to the river Mosel.

There are three movements:

1. Mosel und Römer (Mosel and Romans) in which the happily flowing river is overshadowed by the relentless marching rhythm of the Roman soldiers.

2. Mosel, Wein und Marx (Mosel, Wine and Marx) in which the happily flowing wine festivals are interrupted by the first line of the Internationale - an evocation of Karl Marx

3. Die Glocken von Trier (The Bells of Trier) in which the opening ecclesiastical music is interrupted by the bells of Trier and enhanced by elements of the Mosel Hymn, all of which combine to form a patriotic finale.

Canach, Luxembourg, June 2015

Symphonie 21 „Mosel“ Opus 249

Eine symphonische Hommage an die Mosel.

Es gibt drei Sätze:

1. Mosel und Römer, in dem der fröhlich fließende Fluss vom unerbittlichen Marschrhythmus der römischen Soldaten überschattet wird.

2. Mosel, Wein und Marx, in dem die fröhlich fließenden Weinfeste durch die erste Zeile der Internationale unterbrochen werden – eine Anspielung auf Karl Marx

3. Die Glocken von Trier, in dem die kirchliche Eröffnungsmusik durch die Trierer Glocken unterbrochen und durch Elemente der Mosel Hymne verstärkt wird, die alle zusammen ein patriotisches Finale bilden.

Canach, Luxemburg, Juni 2015

Symphony 22 'Waldjahreszeiten - Forest Seasons’ Opus 250

... the product of many forest walks during all seasons in Austria, beginning with Winter and quoting and developing two well-known Austrian melodies ... 'Wie lustig ist's im Winter' and 'Obndlied'. The progression and line of the music is, of course, equally applicable to the span of a human lifetime ..... the music ends as it begins, the new cycle is ready ....

Canach, Luxembourg, June 2015

Symphony 23 ‘Traunsee' Opus 263

A one movement Symphony in three parts: Traunsee, Traunkirchen, Traunsee. Impressionistic images of light and water. Dedicated to Britta and Raimund Lang.

Hinterthal, Austria in August, 2017

Dedicated to Britta and Raimund Lang

Symphony 24 ‘Bricha' Opus 279

In 1947 many Jewish Displaced Persons had no alternative than to walk across the Alps to Italy, through the Krimmler Achental, en route to Palestine, later Israel, which was blockaded by the British. 'Bricha' is the name of the underground organisation which made this possible. This one movement Symphony is a tribute to their endurance and desperation….

Krimmler Achenthal, Hinterthal, Austria and Senheim, Germany, August 2018

Dedicated to the Jaidbach Alm

Symphony 25 Opus 286

The beginning offers a tense, syncopated accompaniment figure which persists almost throughout, over which appear broad melodic shapes, tonal yet at times very dissonant. Majestic chords with something of a Tudor feel open the 2nd movement, and from them come extended melodic contrapuntal passages. The alternation continues for some time until a hint of the blues creeps in before the end. The 3rd movement is a scherzo-equivalent, a moto perpetuo contrapuntal dialogue at times eerie, even demonic. Contrast then from a more felicitous trio before the return. Finally movement 4, opening with a gentle, sad introduction after which chords alternate with halter skelter passages before the music ends in a quiet way.

Senheim, Germany 2019, between Good Friday and Easter Sunday

Dedicated to Ulrike Wiedenbach

Symphony 26 ‘Ganges’ Opus 301

Not Indian music, rather my reactions to experiences in India in February 2020, and in particular the dislocated, hallucinatory multiplicities of Varanasi. Life, death, compassion, indifference. Dedicated to Harshwardhan Singh Rathore, who showed me his country, and to Ollie, who arrived just after we came back. One movement, from the purity of the North to the smoke and ritual of the Sacred City: Varanasi.

Senheim, Germany after my return from India in 2020

Dedicated to Harshwardhan Singh Rathore and Ollie 

Symphony 27 ‘For New Life’ Opus 305

During the nine month wait for the birth of my granddaughter I took recordings of her heartbeat from the scans and used both speed and rhythm to write 6 cumulative movements - Symphony 27 - which is dedicated to her, my 'Welcome to the World' present. From the rapid, tapping beat of the 1st movement (six weeks), the sporadic and seemingly random irregular rhythmic outbursts of the 2nd (13 weeks), the calm meditation of the 3rd, the unstoppable power of developing and expanding life of the 4th (16 weeks), the exquisite near-celestial evocation of the 5th ('Serenissima' - 20 weeks) to the epic dramas of the 6th and final movement, this work, with many private thematic evocations of mother and father as well ..... was nine months in the making!

Senheim, Germany, 2020

Dedicated to Evelyn Flora Jennings, my Grand-Daughter

Symphony 28 ‘Y Fflam - The Flame’ Opus 313

An elegiac opening becomes tonally distorted before alterations between this and a more relaxed passage begin. The chordal opening of the 2nd movement introduce an extended love duet between high violins and high cells, after which the chords return in a more ethereal way. The final movement opens tragically and despite increased forward motion remains so. Towards the end a short major passage, taken from an earlier work (symphonic poem ‘Y Chwarel - The Quarry’) passes in and out of the ongoing activity, offering moments of lightness and consolation. The music winds down to a close, leaving an unresolved feeling.

Senheim, Germany, May 2021

Symphony 29 ‘Salzburg’ Opus 317

Clearly a Symphony 29 can only be in A major and most likely should have a title such as 'Salzburg'. Therefore the 1st movement evokes Mozart's 29th in a fresh and light way, after which the music becomes more and more Romantic and elemental, as the wonderful mountains dictate - and yes the Bruckner evocations are deliberate, because he got it right (and did it better). This is my take. Four Movements

Hinterthal, Austria, August 2021

Symphony 30 ‘The Darkling Light’ Opus 324

A short but intense single movement work for string orchestra, reflecting the darkening mood at the end of December 2021 during the health crisis, the climate crisis and the threat of war between Russia and Ukraine

Senheim, Germany, 2021

Symphony 31 ‘Wasserfall’ Opus 331

Inspired by the work of Austrian painter Roswitha Foch, this one movement Symphony is in at least five parts, peaceful, reflective, hectic, tumultuous - like the Waterfall, like Life.

Senheim, Germany, August 2022

Dedicated to Roswitha Foch

Symphony 32 ‘Life!’ Opus 333

Another celebration of life, written during various stages of pregnancy before the birth of my second grand-daughter (Symphony 27 is dedicated to my first grand-daughter)). There are six movements, the speeds of which are based on the differing heart rhythms heard and seen during scans over the nine months. Each movement uses themes and ideas representing different members of the family.

Senheim, Germany, 2022 - 2023

Dedicated to Norah May

Symphony 33 ‘The Temple’ Opus 334

Inspired by a visit to the now disused Kailashnatha Temple at Kanchipuram, India, and several others, and dedicated 'to those who were there'.  I wondered what might linger in the air after countless centuries of worship and activity. This one-movement symphony has three main sections, the first is marked 'Spirits and Memories enter the long-empty Temple' the second 'SHIVA' and finally 'Spirits and Memories leave the again-empty Temple'. I have used original melodic and rhythmic material noted down on the day.

The end is the beginning is the end. The final section reverses and inverts the music of the first, including the bird calls.

So there is no life, no death, no past, no future, no up, no down, no hot, no cold, no forwards, no backwards, no optimism, no pessimism. All is one. We are all one. Everything in this universe, and maybe as well in parallel or alternative universes, is ONE. To recognise the Divine is to recognise this space where there are no contradictions.


Inspiriert von einem Besuch des jetzt stillgelegten Kailashnatha-Tempels in Kanchipuram, Indien, und mehrerer anderer und „denen gewidmet, die dort waren“. Ich fragte mich, was nach unzähligen Jahrhunderten der Anbetung und Aktivität noch in der Luft liegen würde. Diese einsätzige Symphonie hat drei Hauptabschnitte, der erste ist überschrieben mit „Geister und Erinnerungen betreten den längst leeren Tempel“, der zweite mit „SHIVA“ und schließlich „Geister und Erinnerungen verlassen den wieder leeren Tempel“. Ich habe originales melodisches und rhythmisches Material verwendet, das an diesem Tag notiert wurde.

Das Ende ist der Anfang ist das Ende. Der letzte Abschnitt kehrt und invertiert die Musik des ersten, einschließlich der Vogelrufe.

Es gibt also kein Leben, keinen Tod, keine Vergangenheit, keine Zukunft, kein Oben, kein Unten, kein Heißes, kein Kaltes, kein Vorwärts, kein Rückwärts, keinen Optimismus, keinen Pessimismus. Alles ist eins. Wir sind alle eins. Alles in diesem Universum und vielleicht auch in Parallel- oder Alternativ-Universen ist EINS. Das Göttliche zu erkennen bedeutet, diesen Raum zu erkennen, in dem es keine Widersprüche gibt.

India, England, Senheim, Germany, February - March 2023

Dedicated to Those Who Were There.

Symphony 34 ’Sussex’ Opus 341

Written in Chiddingly, Sussex, England during a two week stay in August, 2023. A pastoral symphony, drawn directly from the the wonderful landscape - world - experienced on the estate where I stayed. 

There are four movements, the 1st ‘From the Fields’ being a pastoral evocation of those woods and fields. The 2nd is called ‘From the Storm’ tries to outline my feelings during an epic and drenching sudden thunder storm. The 3rd, ‘From the Moon’ offers peace and tranquility, a veiled view of the moon through clouds of moisture-laden mist and cloud. Finally ‘From the Night and the Stars’ reflecting the beautiful darkness masking intense life and activity, interspersed with increasing frequency by glimpses of the majestic Milky Way.

Chiddingly and Hove, Sussex, England, and Senheim, Germany - August 2023

Dedicated to Susan Bullock and Richard Berkeley Steele.

Symphony 35 'Swarna Nagari - The Golden City' Opus 343


From the banal swamp of collective human existence - marked by ignorance and meaningless, repetitive activity - to the striving for consciousness and individuation, the Golden City (Heavenly, Celestial, Promised, NIrvana) can so rarely be perceived or reached, yet meaning may be found in the struggle to rise above the maelstrom, to establish structures of light and meaning, to fight upwards, always reaching, hardly ever connecting, making our little towers of hope. Enlightenment and Redemption as a Darwinian struggle? This music was inspired by a very brief visit to the colossal model city - universe -at the Jain Museum in Ajmer, India in November 2023.

Ajmer, Amritsar and Senheim, November 2023

Symphony 36 Opus 344

A short single movement Symphony for String Orchestra and Solo Violin, as the year fades away. Written at the end of December 2023 in Senheim, Germany.

Symphony 37 'The Return' Op. 350 

A circular journey, the traveller returns eventually to the starting point but with new perspectives: nothing is the same as it was. 


There are four movements: 

1: The Journey 

2: Distractions 

3: The Stars 

4: The Return

Senheim, Germany, April 2024

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