DAVID MATTHEWS (b.1943): Symphony No. 9, Op. 140 (First Recording), Variations for Strings, Op. 40, Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, Op. 122.
Catalogue Number: 05U009
Reference: NI 6382
Description: Matthews' 9th Symphony is, as we have come to expect, an extremely fine work in the British symphonic tradition. He deals with the 9th symphony 'problem' by, basically, ignoring it and writing the cogent, communicative symphonic argument that he would have written anyway, regardless of number. The work begins modestly and unassumingly, with a small carol that the composer had written for his wife. This becomes the subject of a taut sonata-form movement which ingeniously transforms it and takes it into more emotionally complex territory. The second movement is an aggressive, assertive scherzo - Shostakovich meets Vaughan Williams - while the fourth is also a scherzo, but of a different sort; nocturnal, lighter in weight and enigmatic. These frame the slow movement, the heart of the work, which is an extended, somewhat re-written version of A June Song (composed for Martin Anderson's Music for My Love project) - fully orchestrated (the original, for strings, is on 01U067) and weightier but preserving the same elegiac character. The finale opens with an air of uncertainty, but soon gains confidence and launches into an unexpectedly vehement climax, after which the carol from the first movement returns in a final exultant, grandiose statement to bring the symphony to a close. The Variations comprise a substantial set, full of the kind of innovative and original string writing familiar from Matthews' quartets. They are widely varied in character, culminating in a powerful, climactic slow No.8, only after which the theme - a gentle chorale - is revealed. An exuberant epilogue with an unexpected ending concludes the work. The Double Concerto is a three-movement work in which the soloists are treated "... rather than [with] rivalry, there is a sense of coming together in friendship." The material of the work is another matter; this is no jolly little divertimento, and the slow movement in particular has a shadowy, even rather sinister nocturnal feel, and before it resolves into a lively folk dance, even the lively finale seems to emerge from the foreboding of the previous movement by way of the 'wind over the graves'. Sarah Trickey (violin), Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola), English Symphony Orchestra, English String Orchestra; Kenneth Woods.