Symphony No. 6

William Boyce

Symphony No. 6 in F major

Op. 2/6 • “Solomon”

About this work

As Master of the King's Musick, English composer William Boyce composed many theatrical productions and odes for official occasions such as birthdays, weddings, and funerals. He decided to compile the instrumental works from these larger pieces and publish them as Eight Symphonies in 1760. Most of these works are based on the Italian opera overture scheme (fast-slow-fast) that became the model for the early three-movement symphony between the Baroque and Classical periods. At this time, the terms overture and symphony were interchangeable. The style is definitely Baroque with its many harmonic sequences, irregular phrases that create continuity, and consistent mood or feeling throughout each movement.

The Symphony No. 6 was originally an overture to Boyce's serenata Solomon in 1742. Although there are officially only two movements, the first movement, Largo-Allegro-Largo is also based on the above-mentioned Italian three-part model. However, it begins in the typically slow dramatic style of the French overture in binary form (AABB). (Look to the keyboard sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti for more examples of this formal scheme.) The Allegro section is fugal with intermittent passages of lighter texture featuring duo violins, bass, and keyboard, and ends with a return to the earlier slow material. The second and final movement, Larghetto, is a graceful minuet also in binary form. The influence of George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), a very prominent force in London at the time, is unmistakable. But, Boyce manages to hold his own with attractive melodies, clarity of form, and an energetic rhythmic sense.