Hyperion Records

Symphony in A major, Op 3
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Lamond’s Symphony in A major, Opus 3 is his first and only symphony, probably commenced around 1885 when he was seventeen years old and still awaiting that recognition as a pianist which would soon lead him away from composition. It went through at least two revisions before its publication in Frankfurt in 1893. It was performed at the famous Court Theatre at Meiningen where Lamond was greeted by the orchestra with a Tusch, or flourish, of trumpets and drums. Manns conducted it in Glasgow on 23 December 1889 and again at the Crystal Palace, London in 1890. There are four movements.

From the very start of the opening Allegro moderato there is a sense of generous assurance, yet nothing here is overstated. The warm cello and clarinet melody rises from the major third and, passing up through the strings to a fortissimo, asserts an inherent strength with a rugged exchange of 6/8 for 3/4. It is followed immediately by the second subject, in a lilting waltz tempo that eventually leads to a beautiful yielding codetta to the exposition. The development is brief, the second subject dancing lightly amongst the more dramatic gestures derived from the first subject. The recapitulation is regular, and the coda, which briefly threatens to be portentous, is no such thing, and ends unassumingly.

The Allegro vivace, quasi presto follows on entirely naturally. It is a scherzo, bursting with energy and fun, looking back to Beethoven and, in the odd moment, forward to Mahler. Woven into its brilliant contrasts of texture is a gentle slightly modal theme over a drone bass, like a tiny breath of Scottish air in the otherwise Germanic climate of the movement. The trio section, Molto moderato e quieto, has a ländler-like lilt, though others have heard Scotland in its rural charm. The scherzo returns, modified, but as bucolic as before and, in homage to Beethoven’s own ploys, ends teasingly with a brief recollection of the trio section.

A glorious melody opens the Andante moderato, but there is also a very real unease in this movement, with heavy-paced tuttis in slow march tempo and sections of dark thoughtfulness. Relief is brought with the return of the opening theme, beautifully embellished by flowing quavers; but they are insufficient wholly to dispel the agitation, and though the coda eventually subsides gently, it does so over a bass line which retains much of the darkness of the earlier slow march. The concluding ‘amen’ cadence, so simply stated, sounds here with a true sense of gratitude for deliverance from some trouble only partly disguised.

The sure hand of Brahms guides the start of the Allegro con spirito in both rhythm and texture, but Lamond is so at home in this idiom, and his material is so lovely in itself – notably the second subject – that it should earn nothing but a welcome for the pleasure with which it walks in familiar fields.

from notes by John Purser © 2004

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