David Matthews' modernistic compositional language is distinct from that of his brother Colin, whose music runs more toward the impressionistic side of the scale. This rough distinction is reinforced by his first and second symphonies as heard here (written in 1975 and 1985, respectively); both are tough, rhetorically vigorous works. His Fifth Symphony of 1999 is more immediately attractive in form and expression, but it coheres with its earlier siblings by speaking through an edgy but comprehensibly tonal harmonic language. Martyn Brabbins and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales turn in well-polished performances. In the piercing trumpets at the end of the First, the strenuous string fugato at the opening of the Second, and the expressive lines at the core of the Third's Adagio, Brabbins and the Welsh musicians appear passionately dedicated to giving Matthews' music the most persuasive possible performances. Recorded in cool, blended digital sound by Dutton, this disc will appeal more to listeners who favor the Walton/Britten line of modernists than to those who prefer the Vaughan Williams/Moeran line, but they will all be heartened to hear such outstanding contributions to English music.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Symphony No. 5, Op. 78a|