Unlike many contemporary composers, David Matthews has been much concerned with working in the great, inherited forms of the past – symphony, string quartet, oratorio – and finding new ways of renewing them. In a similar spirit, he has never shied away from tonality, from a musical language that is clear and direct, and from a joyous spirit of dance; “If only music could dance once again!” he reflected upon listening to Monteverdi’s Vespers. This is the work that inspired his own Vespers, a grand oratorio masterfully combining a sense of solemnity and exhilaration, and which makes an important addition to the great tradition of amateur choral music. The same feeling of boisterous energy is felt in Matthews’ seventh, and most recent, symphony. Once again, Matthews is unafraid of connections with great composers of the past and the model of Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony – a one-movement work that subtly transitions from slow to fast and back again – provides a template from which Matthews creates a piece of exquisitely scored beauty and richness.
Vespers op.66 (1993-96) for mezzo-soprano and tenor soli, SATB chorus and orchestra DH
Katie Bray (mezzo-soprano)
Matthew Long (tenor)
The Bach Choir
Symphony no.7 op.109 (2008-09) JC
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
DH David Hill (conductor)
JC John Carewe (conductor)
World premiere recordings
Recorded at Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset, 19 July 2011 [Symphony] & 27-28 July 2013 [Vespers]
"Probably as important a British choral release as we'll see this year"
"this is a work [Vespers] both of great beauty and genuine spiritual force. It encompases as violent an orchestral schrezo as Matthews has ever written, choral writing of rare yet eminently traditional refulgence, beautifully flexible vocal solos"
"I was moved and rather awed by the mastery of large forces to such humane, celebratory goals."
"No mere makeweight, Matthews's recent Seventh Symphony ... is compact and hugely responant single-movement structure."
"In both the Symphony and Vespers, it's yje cumulative power of Matthews's music that impresses, the ability to build huge purposeful paragraphs that actually go somewhere and deliver on arrival."
"Blazingly committed performances do full justice to, yes, one of our greatest living composers."
Calum MacDonald, BBC Music Magazine, April 2014