William Herschel
(1738 - 1822)

Herschel : Symphonia no. 6 in Bb major : illustration

Symphonia no. 6 in Bb major
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Allegro - Andante - Allegro

Herschel completed this symphony on 30th November, 1760 in Sunderland.

Herschel's symphonies remained unpublished in his lifetime and were therefore rendered only under his personal direction, and only by the forces available to him. In the relevant period (during his employments in Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire) his pools of available players were at comparatively small town music associations, with a small military band, and at a house party with royal guests. On Aug. 18th, 1761 he wrote from one of his more important engagements, in Newcastle, that "I have the direction of the music, and we make up a fairly good band of about 16 persons". This number would seem slightly larger than the forces he could generally muster, and consequently it would seem that he had, at best, only about a dozen string players at any rendition. The varying numbers of wind (and percussion) players prescribed for the different symphonies are an accurate indication of the supplementary forces available to him at any given composition's date. Some of the symphonies (strings and continuo only) he termed "di camera", acknowledging a poverty of resources, not of musical ambition. He retained the terminology in his scores of concertante and ripieno string parts, but none of his compositions have this as an important feature for the layering of the texture. For these symphonies, it would be not unsympathetic to realise them as string quartets (a newly fashionable form in its infancy, for which his brother Jacob was writing at this period).