Various Artists

Colin Matthews: Violin Concerto; Cortège; Cello Concerto No. 2

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

Composer Colin Matthews writes big scores that push both orchestral musicians and soloists to the extent of their abilities, thus finding success with a fairly thorny orchestral idiom that anglicizes the Mahler-Berg line a bit, but generally avoids tonal anchor points. Matthews is notable for paying as much attention to music's diffusion and distribution as to its composition, and he and the NMC label that he founded gather an impressive roster of top-flight international talent here to celebrate his own 70th birthday. Matthews' idiom is detailed enough that he can tailor it to individual soloists such as Leila Josefowicz, heard here in a scorching two-movement violin concerto that you could sample for an idea of Matthews' style. The Cello Concerto No. 2 of 1996 was composed for none other than Mstislav Rostropovich. But perhaps the strongest emotional impact of the three works here belongs to 1988's Cortège, for which Matthews provided no program and insisted that it was, despite what some may think by its title, not meant as a funeral march. Nevertheless, the 27-minute work has the combination of epic quality and inwardness that characterized much of Mahler's work, and in its later stages it reaches transcendent levels. Intended perhaps as an introduction to the later part of Matthews' career, this release can serve well in that capacity.

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