malcolm lipkin, composer

The Pursuit (Symphony No.2)

First performed at New Broadcasting House, Manchester on 9 February 1983 Sir Edward Downes conducting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

The Musical Times:


In 1979, an Arts Council bursary enabled Lipkin to complete the symphony he had been sketching since 1975. It had been ten years since he had taken up the challenge of writing a symphony and, as with the Sinfonia di Roma, progress was slow and painstaking. However, the result is arguably even more significant to Lipkin's musical development than the First Symphony had been and, as ever with Lipkin, the increased technical fluency is growth that cannot be separated from the need to express new thought and experience: the Second Symphony is an important personal statement.

The symphony's title, The Pursuit, refers to an idea in the extract from a poem by Andrew Marvell, which heads the score:

But at my back I always hear
Times winged Charriot hurrying near:
And yonder all before us lye
Desarts of vast Eternity.

The ethos behind the symphony is the concept of time and distance which is probed in purely musical terms by a development of procedures laid down in the Sinfonia di Roma. In that work Lipkin had left behind the extended melodies, the straightforward tonal framework and the Bartókian motor rhythms of his earlier music; Seiber's teaching had borne fruit in the use of pithy fragmented ideas and rhythmic cells as the basis of the argument. The idiom is austere, at times highly dissonant, with the tonality obscured and an emphasis on spare textures and sinewy counterpoint. In The Pursuit these processes are continued, but with new suppleness of thought particularly in relation to rhythmic development.

The Listener:

It was a wonderful study in movement, from a binary pendulum idea to heavy brass wagon-rumblings to a furious general rush to hell in a handcart. Certain notes and chords seemed to be pivotal in the continuous shifting of weight. Lipkin, who studied with Blacher and Seiber, doesn't exactly sound new but he doesn't sound like anyone else either.