Gerard Victory's Symphony No. 2, "Il Ricorso"
Victory's second symphony takes as its theme and structural motif Giambattista Vico's theory of cyclical history, the very same idea that Joyce uses as an organizational device in Finnegans Wake. Although I have no proof that Victory was directly influenced by Joyce or the Wake when he chose Vico as his subject; given Victory's many other Joyce connections it is certainly possible.
| Excerpts from the David C.F. Wright article on Composers on the Web:
The Symphony no 2, which dates from 1977, is a splendid piece in three substantial movements. It is subtitled "Il Ricorso" (The Return) taken from the writings of the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico who believed in three dominant elements in human social affairs. Firstly the theocratic principle; secondly the artistocratic idea as typified in the Renaissance period; and thirdly the democratic age which would dissolve in a Divine thunderclap to start the cycle again. Victory's symphony reflects these three principles. The first movement begins quietly and uneasily and leads to a climax indicating the primeval joy of man in the encircling dust of the beginning of things. Well-punctuated swirling music introduces a horn tune with a pronounced and impressive swagger; the percussiorn seeks to portray the march of time arriving at the age of discovery and achievement. It is music of controlled and persuasive primitivism. The character charges into a more expansive canvas with woodwind figurations and mysterious sounds as if one age were merging into another. More stirring music appears with a hint of the East and a sweeping tune which is to reappear throughout this incredible score in which orchestral colour is one of many striking features. There is also occasional grandeur and a tremendous coda with typical Victory swagger which is as infectious as it is exhilarating.
The second movement is an elegy but not a sentimental one. It is tragic, suggesting cries from the heart rather than tears. Cruelty is cleverly portrayed with appropriate discordance: there are echoes of Renaissance music skilfully woven into the musical argument suggesting the sorrow at the passing of an age of artistic and cultural beauty with the realization that it will never be recaptured with its original impact. The trombone is used for its more expressive qualities. The finale is impressive and sinister. It has a strong theme and a marvellously forward motion alternating an unforgettable march theme with a waltz, contrasting declamatory utterances reminiscent of Shakespeare's Jack Cade with whimsical entertainment. Mysterious music reappears and an oboe theme suggests, to me at any rate, the lonely roads of Ireland. Spirituality returns with a flute solo of almost unbearable beauty heralding the repeated sweeping theme sometimes with formidable dramatic power and then with remarkable tenderness. The work ends with a spectacular coda.
© David C. F. Wright, Ph.D
David C. F. Wright's article is available online at Classics on the Web.