If you wish they still wrote music like they did a century ago, the music of David Matthews is the music for you. In this Chandos disc of three world premieres, Matthews' music sounds like an adept combination of the harmonies and textures of Impressionism, the themes and tone of Expressionism, and the energy and color of various nationalistic styles. Well-played by the BBC Philharmonic and well-conducted by Rumon Gamba, Matthews' three scores -- The Music of Dawn, a symphonic poem from 1990; the Concerto in Azzurro, a cello concerto from 2002; and A Vision and a Journey from 1999 -- come off as finely polished and deeply felt, though ultimately not all that original. In these performances, Matthews' The Music of Dawn sounds like an updated version of "Day Break" from Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe with more melancholy melodies; the Concerto in Azzurro sounds like a more intimate version of Dvorák's Cello Concerto with the work's Czech nationalism replaced by generic pastoralisms; and A Vision and a Journey combines the fiery themes of Mahler with the watery harmonies of Debussy set in the earthy textures of Rachmaninov with the heavenly colors of Scriabin. But though he is by no means merely an epigone, Matthews lacks a sufficiently strong compositional identity to make his music instantly identifiable as his, and none of his pieces here linger long in the memory. With the talented and dedicated Guy Johnston as the cello soloist in the Concerto Azzurro, these performances make Matthews' music as attractive and engaging as possible, and Chandos' digital sound reproduces them with exemplary clarity.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|The Music of Dawn, symphonic poem for orchestra, Op. 50|
|Concerto in Azzurro, for cello & orchestra, Op. 87|
|A Vision and a Journey, symphonic fantasy for orchestra, Op. 60|