DAVID MATTHEWS (b.1943): Complete String Quartets, Vol. 4 - String Quartet No. 11, Op. 108, Diabelli Variation, BEETHOVEN/MATTHEWS: 11 New Bagatelles, Op. 119, Piano Sonata No. 28 in A, Op. 101.
Catalogue Number: 03R068
Label: Toccata Classics
Reference: TOCC 03318
Description: Matthews has emerged as arguably the most significant British composer of string quartets since Robert Simpson, with a wholly individual style and a complete command of the medium. This disc, which brings together his most Beethoven-influenced works for quartet would be a good place for anyone to start who is unfamiliar with Matthews' fresh yet tradition-following, un-gimmicky, very tonal but by no means conservative, approach to the quartet (for those already collecting this excellent series it will be self-recommending). The Eleventh quartet is a set of variations on the eighth of Beethoven's Op. 119 Bagatelles, all of which Matthews subsequently transcribed for quartet in a manner so idiomatic that a listener unacquainted with the originals would naturally assume them to have been composed for quartet. Matthews' quartet begins in the style of late Beethoven, but subsequent variations rapidly move into Matthews' own style, though Beethovenian gestures, surprises and humor recur throughout, in the ferocious tango, rough peasant mazurka and extrovert fugal conclusion, for instance. The twelfth variation is unexpectedly serious and forms a large slow movement, paying tribute to Beethoven's Op. 130. Matthews' quartet textures are original without venturing into 'extended' territory; the extended use of flageolet tones in several variations is a distinctive and appealing trademark of the composer's. Anyone interested in the art of creative transcription needs to hear these Beethoven arrangements. The Op. 101 piano sonata, as Matthews notes, conveniently contains a good deal of four-part writing, and in his masterful arrangement it sounds exactly like a work originally written for quartet. The same is as true of the much earlier (1978) transcription from the Op.22 sonata in the style of Beethoven's first group of quartets as of the 2013 Bagatelle transcriptions.