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Sinfonia di Roma

was first performed at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool on 18 January 1966, with Sir Charles Groves conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Describing the symphony as a 'Sound Picture of Rome', The Times went on to comment as follows:

"Malcolm Lipkin's Sinfonia di Roma attempts to effect a reconciliation between two basically opposed concepts; on the one hand elements of a descriptive tone-poem, on the other symphonic growth and structure. During a visit to Rome the composer was struck by the extraordinary incongruity of the utter chaos of modern traffic conditions within the timelessness and dignity of the ancient setting. In one particular traffic jam all the motorists blew their horns vigorously and the din produced made an unforgettable impact. It is this violent contrast and the feelings it engendered which are given symphonic expression

The piece is in three movements. In the first, a slow Intrada, a six-note motto theme is exposed; this theme is frequently inverted. The structure is clear and the orchestra is used sparingly, almost starkly.

This reflective introduction leads into a frenzied Scherzo. A telescoped statement of the basic motive is taken up and developed by the full orchestra against an agitated ostinato. At this point pictorialism takes over and the motor hooters are sublimated into quintuplet groups of reiterated notes. Towards the end the full fury of the percussion is unleashed. The arch is completed by a short, reflective Notturno.

The Sinfonia is not strictly 12-tone, though its intervallic procedures show the hand of Schoenberg or, more properly perhaps, Webern, especially in the way that motivic elements are fragmented and allotted to various instruments.

The first performance of this work at Liverpool tonight was impressive. It unfolded logically and its ideas were presented with the utmost economy of means. Yet it was in no way a mere cerebral exercise and the slow movements conveyed emotional warmth and poetry."

I was dismayed to find that the Villa Borghese looked more like a dodgem circus than a park; for, with roads cutting through the green area, the place was filled with the sounds of screeching car brakes, of savage hooting and, above all, the massive roar of traffic, furiously negotiating the bends of the Muro Torto below.

As I looked from the Pincio at one of the most famous skylines of the world, I reflected on this madness... How tragically, and how absurdly did the presence of these petty little machines conflict with the quiet majesty of all the many superb buildings, which in their very dignity, seemed to emphasise the futility of modern city life.
— Malcolm Lipkin, Tempo Magazine, December 1969