The fourth Movement
The final chapter of the symphony begins as it started, with an angst ridden opening statement, (presented by the whole orchestra) which quickly recedes into a more reassuring passage. After the briefest reference to previous themes, the music settles down and a solo soprano introduces the first of two poems: ‘Nature’ by Henry Longfellow and ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti. Whilst the vocal line is necessarily through composed, each poem has a principal theme, which serves as a ritornello to unify each of the sections. In addition, subtle references to the other movements are discreetly worked into the orchestral textures.
The orchestral interlude between the poems is at the heart of the movement, if not the symphony. This section represents the final journey from this life to the next. A rich and conflicting gamut of emotions and moods are explored during this inexorable orchestral passage. At various times, the music is frightening, magnificent, reassuring and even judgemental. It is as if the whole of one’s existence is flashing by in a matter of seconds. In another couple of moments the music dissipates and an eerie calm is established. As if without a final judgement, the music, (and one’s soul) arrive in another world. It is not at all certain whether the second poem is delivered from this life or the next, although the text implies the former. The ‘Kiss’ motif, which first appeared as a lover’s kiss, then as a mocking sneer, followed by a mother’s kiss, finally becomes a farewell kiss.
The final poem (‘Remember’) is initially set in the tonic minor (C minor). The ‘Kiss’ motif (now to the forefront) is the ritornello theme for the poem. The ambivalent nature of the text doesn’t allow us to seek much solace from the words. Forty-six bars from the end of the symphony a rainbow of hope appears when the music moves to the tonic major to the words: “And afterwards remember, do not grieve.” It would appear that inner peace has finally been bestowed on the (departed?) spirit. However, in the closing bars of the piece the harmonic conflict of C sharp minor against C major (the opening bars of the symphony) leaves a niggling doubt.
As a fond mother, when the day is o'er,
Leads by the hand her little child to bed,
Half willing, half reluctant to be led,
And leave his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Nor wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us, and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go
Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends the what we know. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad. Christina Rossetti