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One of Tilson Thomas’s most admired contemporary British composers, Tilson Thomas led the very first SFS performances of a Matthews work, the wind symphony Quatrain, in March 2001.
Colin Matthews was born on February 16, 1946 in London, England, and lives there today. Music-lovers who may be unfamiliar with his compositions may well have bumped up against his achievements in other musical domains. He has excelled not just as a composer, but also as a musicologist, a teacher, an editor, an administrator, an arranger, a writer, and a recording producer (he was, for example, the producer of the now-legendary 1993 Elektra Nonesuch recording of Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3, a constant bestseller among classical releases).
As a musicologist he completed a doctoral dissertation at the University of Sussex, on Gustav Mahler, and collaborated with the eminent scholar Deryck Cooke and his own brother, David Matthews (also a noted composer), to create a widely hailed performing version of Mahler’s incomplete Symphony No. 10. He is currently a professor at the Royal College of Music, a governor of the Royal Northern College of Music, and Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Composition at the University of Manchester. From 1971 to 1976 he worked as the assistant to Benjamin Britten in Aldeburgh, helping produce, among other things, the piano-vocal score of that composer’s final opera, Death in Venice. Following Britten’s death he edited and oversaw the publication of a number of his works that survived in manuscript. For a dozen years (1972-84) he also worked closely with Imogen Holst on editions of music by her father, Gustav Holst. Matthews would go on to serve as director of the Holst Foundation, chairman of the Britten Estate, trustee of the Britten-Pears Foundation, and council member of the Aldeburgh Foundation and the Society for the Promotion of New Music. From 1992 to 1999, he served as Associate Composer of the London Symphony Orchestra, where he worked with Michael Tilson Thomas. Following his LSO appointment, he was named Associate Composer of the Hallé Orchestra. Many of his most impressive orchestral works have been written expressly for the London Symphony Orchestra, including Quatrain, Machines and Dreams (for toy instruments and orchestra), and Cello Concerto No. 2 (1996, for Mstislav Rostropovich).
Matthews comments about his new work:
Images is a single twelve- to thirteen-minute work, divided into four parts
of roughly equal length which play without a break. All four parts are
interrelated, and might be thought of as four different ways of looking
at the same thing, although all are in some way elusive, almost as if what
is being looked at is seen out of the corner of the eye. The concept, although
definitely not the content, of the individual parts has been influenced
by my recent work on Debussy’s Preludes, and each section has a title,
although it is, like Debussy’s, not revealed until the end. The titles
(or perhaps it would be better to call them afterthoughts) are: Distant
Waltz, Past March, Present Recitative and Future Movement.
An Interview with Tobias Picker
Handmaid Tale's Debuts in English
Rautavaara Joins B&G
Who's Afraid of Julia Wolfe
Derek Bermel's Soul Garden
The Pianist: The Extraordinary
True Story of Wladyslaw Szpilman
John Adams' Atomic Opera
A Bridge Not Far Enough
Turnage Signs With B&H
Sophie's Wrong Choice
On Being Arvo
Rzewski Plays Rzewski
Praising Lee Hyla
David Lang's Passing Measures
Three Tales at BAM
Naxos at 15
On the Transmigration of Souls
Dead Man Walking
David Krakauer's The Year After
Steve Reich/Alan Pierson
Composer: Amadeo Vives
Performers: Maria Bayo,
Alfredo Kraus, Orquesta Sinfonica de Tenerife, Antoni Ros Marba
A superb performance of Amadeo Vives' zarzuela masterpiece, sung with enormous vivacity and brio by the ravishing-voiced Maria Bayo and the sturdy Alfredo Kraus. With its nineteenth century Madrid setting, its roots in classical Spanish drama and its festive nocturnal amours, Doña Francisquita provides a retrospective on the romantic zarzuela tradition and its crowning glory. The work was immediately recognized not only as Vives’ masterpiece, but as the greatest full length zarzuela of its era. If you're not into zarzuela already, this is the perfect place to start your collection.
Symphony 9 Visionaria
Composer: Kurt Atterberg
Satu Vihavainen (mezzo-soprano); Gabriel Suovanen (baritone)
NDR Choir, Prague Chamber Choir
NDR Radio Philharmonic,
The 9th and final symphony of Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg bears a superficial relationshp to Beethoven's 9th with its big, expresssive choral sound but Atterburg's world is a good deal less joyous. Atterberg's choice of texts reflects the lasting impact on his psyche made by World War II and the Korean War. The Poetic Edda, an Icelandic epic dating from around 1270, relates the visions of a wise prophetess (hence the Symphony's title "Sinfonia Visionaria") who foretells the creation of the world, the warring among gods, giants, and humans, the world's destruction, and finally its recreation.
Atterberg uses mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists with chorus and large orchestra, as well as a quasi-oratorio form, to tell his epic tale. This is extraordinary symphony by a composer who is far too little-known in the musical world.
The Complete Mazurkas
Composer: Karol Szymanowski
Performer: Marc-Andre Hamelin
Marc-Andre Hamelin continues his extraordinary journey through the forgotten rivers and bayous of the modern piano repetoire with masterful performances of Szymanowski's Twenty Mazurkas, Op. 50, composed between 1926 and 1931. After assimilating the influence of Stravinsky, Szymanowski began looking for folk themes in Polish music to rival the Russian folk touches of the master. The Mazurka, a traditional Polish dance in three-quarter-time with an often erratic-seeming emphasis on the second beat, (and a favorite form for Chopin) offered great possibilities .
These highly diverse pieces are more complex than Chopin, more modern and dissonant, yet also more muted and elusive. Still, Szymanowski remained too much a romantic to settle for anything less then flamboyant virtuosity--a quality that Hamelin possses by the truckload.
Bach, Barber, Berg, Chopin, Debussy, Mahler, Ravel, Wolf
Peformers: : Choeur De Chambre Accentus, Equilbey
Worth having for the ravishing performances of Samuel Barber's "Adagio" and Mahler's "Adagietto from Symphony No. 5."
Symphony No. 6
Composer: Gustav Mahler
Performer: London Symphony Orchestra; Mariss Jansons
Label: LSO Live
It is rare that you find a recording that you need listen to for only a minute to know a masterpiece is unfolding before your very ears. This stunning live performance of Mahler's "Tragic" symphony is one of the rare ones, From the first rhythmic thumps of the long and stately funeral march to the final faded chords, Mariss Jansons draws a passionate and committed performance from the LSO. Certain to be among the best of the year noninees.
Wheel of Emptiness
Composer: Jonathan Harvey
English composer Jonathan Harvey is one of those modernists whose work is more frequently talked about then played. This rare recording contains five representative works ranging from the lyrical to the raw, built on instrumentations ranging from electroacoustical to the traditional. An excellent introduction to an unjustly neglected maverick.
Piano Etudes 1
Composer: Philip Glass
Performer: Philip Glass
Glass says he wrote these "studies" as fodder for his own concert performances and as a way of challenging himself as a pianist. But, they are much more important than that. They provide a real insight into how Glass composes and, although billed as sketches, sometimes are more rewarding to the ear and intellect than many of Glass's larger-scale works. Essential recording for the Glassologist.
Music from the Thin Blue Line
Composer: Philip Glass
Glass's hypnotic score for Errol Morris’ extraordinary 1988 documentary film entitled "The Thin Blue Line".
Nonesuch Records released a CD of the film’s soundtrack that included the narration and interviews from the film but this Orange Mountain release contains the original score without the voice-over. The music is dark and brooding, full of tension appropriately for such a chilling film, and it stands well on its own.
Composer: Carolyn Yarnell
Inspired by the beauty and power of nature, the music of Carolyn Yarnell straddles the borders of minimalism, romanticism and Baroque. Sonic Vision, the first CD devoted entirely to her music, contains the powerful electronic composition Love God, a beautiful solo piece for Baroque flute, a minimalist suite for chamber ensemble and a powerful extended work for computer piano. Lyrical and mystical music that evokes volcanoes, birds and the Rocky Mountains.
Composer; Harold Shapero
Performers: Lydian String Quartet
New World Records -
Shapero’s (b. 1920) vastly underrated portfolio is one of the great undiscovered treasure troves of American neoclassicism. The String Trio, the String Quartet, the Serenade in D offer a broad-based introduction to Shapero’s compositional thought processes. Beautiful, committed playing by the Lydian String Quartet.
Composer: Steve Reich
Performer: Ictus, Synergy Vocals
Reich's 1971 masterpiece gets a spirited workout by the Belgian new music group Ictus. Drumming is constructed around one single basic rhythmic-melodic pattern, for an imposing ensemble of percussion (bongos, marimbas, glockenspiel) joined by some female voices, a piccolo flute or a whistling part. The breathtaking feeling of simplicity/complexity in this work is transmitted with an amazing skill by the Belgians.
American Works for Piano Duo
Composer(s): Barber, Persichetti, Diamond, Fennimore
Performer (s): Georgia & Louis Mangos
Barber's homage to the Plaza Hotel's Palm Court, Souvenirs, Op. 28, has never sounded better or more nostalgic and Joseph Fennimore's Crystal Stairs also invokes the quintessential American city. The real surprise here are the two pieces by Vincent Persichetti, which invoke a more dynamic and rough and tumble form of Americanism. The Mango sisters display formidable technique and taste.
Orchestral Works 6
Composer: Joaquin Rodrigo
Conductor: Max Bragado-Darman Performer: Lucero Tena
For a guy who is basically famous for a single work, Rodrigo sure wrote a lot of sparkling, sunny, highly-listenable music. Not sure how many more of these Naxos has in the works but I'm not tired yet.
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Alexander Rahbari
Performer: Masako Deguci, Jose A. Garcia-Quijada, et al.
Like a local wine consumed with good friends and good food not far from the vineyard, regional opera productions of famous operas often have a charm, passion, and character that befies their modest ambitions. This thoroughly charming rendering of Puccini's most hummable score is one of those unexpected delights.
Pipa From a Distance
Performer: Wu Man, Stewart Dempster, Abel Domingues
In addition to being a rightous goodlooking babe, Wu Man is probably the best pipa player alive and here she takes on some thoroughly modern pieces with results that range from the soothing to the downright eerie. There are echos of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Project (for which Wu Man served as main pipa person) as well as hints of new traditions yet to come.
Composer: Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek
Conductor: Michail Jurowski
Performer: Arutiun Kotchinian, Robert Worle, et al.
Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek (1860-1945) is remembered for a single work, the overture to the opera Donna Diana but CPO hopes to change that with the release of his Ritter Blaubart (Knight Bluebeard), a fairy-tale opera.
Gretry, Offenbach and Bartok were also drawn to the story of Bluebeard, the mythical figure who kills his faithless wife and then murders the other women he marries. Reznicek's version boasts music filled with atmosphere and keen drama. Conductor Michail Jurowski leads the Berlin Radio Orchestra and a cast of fine singers in a powerful performance.
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