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David Matthews: Orchestral Works

The Music of Dawn

Concerto in Azzurro

A Vision and a Journey


Guy Johnston, cello

BBC Philharmonic/Rumon Gamba

Chandos CHAN 10487


I admit I approached this CD with some trepidation. I’ve not been much taken with the music of David Matthews that I’ve heard in the past. It’s a taste thing: it has always seemed to sit too politely in the shadows of Holst, Vaughan Williams, Walton et al.


I was very pleasantly surprised, therefore, by The Music of Dawn. A lot of new music at the polite end of the spectrum can hold the listener at arm’s length (I would include the Salonen disc, just reviewed on these pages, in this group). Those pieces are like visiting a perfectly decorated house but being afraid of leaving footprints on the carpet or fingermarks on the walls. None of it is yours and you never feel comfortable enough to put your feet up on the sofa. Matthews’ orchestral sound is more immersive, inviting you in to explore the piece on your own terms. At the very least you are able to make it your own, and that counts for a lot. And, at the same time, each step of that journey feels purposive, rather than meandering.


The Concerto in Azzurro, for cello, I found less arresting: too much of the orchestral writing just seemed to be marking time between the soloist’s passages. A Vision and a Journey, however, returned to the more mercurial form of The Music of Dawn, and proved a similarly intriguing listen. The performances and recording seem just right, and this will prove a valuable recording for admirers of the English 20th-century orchestral tradition. In addition, though, it shouldn’t be overlooked by fans of more adventurous fare, who will find plenty to interest them.


Tim Rutherford-Johnson

See David Matthews' autobiography at http://www.david-matthews.co.uk/biography/default.asp, in which he explains that his recent music has become more diatonic, "using folksong in some pieces, and incorporating birdsong into others".

Image: David working on his Seventh Symphony