David Matthews worked with Deryck Cooke on the latter's completion of Mahler's Symphony No. 10, and an influence of Mahler has lingered in his music ever since. He cannot be called neo-tonal because he never abandoned tonality in the first place, yet there is nothing nostalgic about his music, which sounds unlike that of anyone else. Performed more often in Britain than elsewhere, those beyond might pick this release as a way into his work. The Symphony No. 9, written in 2018 in the composer's 75th year, has a breadth characteristic of Mahler even though its five movements (also a Mahler trademark) last less than half an hour in total. Matthews also shows the influence of hypermelodic British composers like Maw and Tippett, and the effect is as if a Mahler symphony were somehow condensed into much smaller dimensions. Most intricate are the Variations for Strings, Op. 40, which are not for a string orchestra in a conventional sense, but for 24 instruments, each of which, as in Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen, may be deployed as a soloist. This complex texture is mapped onto a large variation form, with dense sections coalescing later in the piece into a chorale melody. The action is a bit hard to follow, but nevertheless absorbing. As a finale, comes Matthews' Double Concerto for violin, viola, and strings, Op. 122, for which the composer himself has cited Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major, K. 364, as a model. Sample the opening movement, which does have the same spacious, relaxed feel. Kenneth Woods, leading the English Symphony Orchestra and English String Orchestra, gets the quiet self-confidence of the music, and the concerto soloists, Sara Trickey and Sara-Jane Bradley, are splendid. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Symphony no. 9, Opus 140|
|Variations for Strings, Opus 40 on Bach's Chorale 'Die Nacht ist kommen'|
|Double Concerto for violin, viola and strings, Opus 122|