My Ninth Symphony began in a modest way in December 2015 when I wrote a little carol for the solstice for my wife Jenifer, with words about the coming of spring. One day in January I was playing i ton the piano and, beginning to improvise, I thought “I can turn this into something bigger, and why not a symphony?” I felt a little uneasy about using such a simple tune for a symphony, particularly with this number, but I was reminded of Nielsen’s Sixth, whose almost naïve opening leads to much more serious events. So my tune, now in C major instead of its original G, began to explore more complex and darker regions as my sonata-form first movement progressed. The coda gently brings back the carol, which moves unexpectedly into A flat major and a solo violin melody at the end.
I began the ‘Variations for Strings’ with two preliminary ideas. The first was that my chosen chorale theme should appear at the end rather than the beginning. Since the words of the chorale are a prayer for a peaceful night, it seemed appropriate that the chorale should be the culmination of the piece, while the variations might be seen as reflecting the activities of the day. The second idea was that the string writing should be as diverse as possible, and that all 24 players should on occasion be used as soloists.
Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola is one of my favourite works of his. I have always loved the special relationship between the two soloists: rather than rivalry, there is a sense of coming together in friendship. I have tried to express the same harmonious qualities in my own Double Concerto.