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Colin Matthews
Chamber Music

Divertimento for double string quartet
Oboe Quartet No.1
Five Concertinos for Wind Quintet
String Quartet No.2

NMC Anora+ D149 [Original recordings 1985-96]

A strongly recommendable disc which augurs well for NMC’s Ancora label

Colin Matthews (b. 1946) founded NMC Recordings, which focuses on contemporary music, and he remains its executive producer. As such it is highly appropriate that a compilation of his chamber works is included in a new disc shortly to be released on the NMC Ancora label, which is devoted to the reissue of contemporary British works deleted by other record labels; it is promised that they will never be ejected from their new home...

This disc is important in its own right and also in a broader context within the history of recorded music.

The music here is all engaging and satisfying and (now) readily accessible, ranging from an earliesh work for double string quartet to a revised version of Matthews' 2nd String Quartet, recorded originally in 1996. Strange to relate, the original masters of several of these recordings, though comparatively recent, have disappeared and the re-issues are transfers from LP; no matter, the recording quality is fine throughout and you'd never guess.

The Divertimento is (recognisably) inspired by the Strauss Metamorphosen, and shows Matthews' romanticism more openly than in some of the other works here (N.B. all festival directors who like to feature Mendelssohn's string octet; this substantial Divertimento is an ideal companion piece for it).

The oboe quartet is intricately contrived, but enjoyable at a more superficial listening level. The compact Triptych was composed for the Trout Quintet line-up of the Schubert Ensemble, and the wind Concertinos spotlight each of the players in turn. The string quartet, quickly listened to twice, strikes me as being as fine and absorbing work as any of the time; it is absurd that it has not found a place in the regular repertoire.

The apposite quote above comes from a PDF which I have not succeeded to download. The presentation is unfussy (large print, black-on-white) with shrewd and listener-helpful analyses of each of the works by Bayan Northcott.

Fuller information is promised on NMC's website: www.nmcrec.co.uk, but seems not to be there yet. Perhaps it will include details of the original recording labels?

Peter Grahame Woolf