30 minutes into the 1st movement
I’ve now completed the 2nd chunk of the 1st movement which takes me to 30 minutes in and I can offer you two contrasting excerpts.
The first half of this video opens onto a brief passage (MS pages 39-44) for 10 part strings alone which leads to one of those magical, whole orchestra, bi-tonal chords (quiet on this occasion) where the lower orchestra is ‘C’ major (+ harp 2 ascending gliss) and the upper orchestra is ‘C#’ Major (+ harp 1 descending gliss). This is followed by the most extended acapella choir passage in the whole symphony at about two minutes. An extended passage of beautiful 8-part counterpoint is followed by 16-voice, 4-part block harmony counterpoint which resolves onto an ‘E’ minor to ‘C#’ minor cadence. Unison trombones & tubas lead to some deep and ominous rumblings in the contrabassoon and double basses.
The second half opens on an unusual passage scored just for wind and brass (MS pages 53-66). Brass soon drop out replaced by strings as the wind play an extraordinarily virtuosic passage which looks (and sounds?) a bit like the virtuoso wind writing at the beginning of the Rite of Spring. Was Sorabji ‘cocking a snook’ at Stravinsky who he vehemently derided? Probably just my fancy. This is soon followed by an extended passage where the strings are divided to their maximum 28 parts, 16 violins and 4 each viola, cello & Doublebass. An extraordinary mosaic of every playing technique known to Sorabji; rapid runs; tremolos; glissandos; pizzicato; harmonics; trills; rapid arpeggios; spiccato and melody. Such passages are incredibly difficult to render and balance. I have always emphasised the melodic and there is melodic contribution from wind and brass. At the close of this passage chorus and wind rejoin and the whole orchestra quite rapidly moves to a huge climax on an ‘F#’ minor chord through which flutes, oboes and 2nd violins (with some necessary help from me) wail a crying lament which soon collapses in on itself.