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Matthews: Violin Concertos, Oboe Concerto, After Sunrise / Graffin, Daniel, Vass

Matthews / Graffin / Daniel / Bmso / Orch Nova
Release Date: 01/11/2011 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7261   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  David Matthews
Performer:  Philippe GraffinNicholas Daniel
Conductor:  George Vass
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MATTHEWS Violin Concerto No. 1. Oboe Concerto. Violin Concerto No. 2 1. After Sunrise Philippe Graffin (vn); Nicholas Daniel (ob); George Vass, cond; Bournemouth SO; 1 O Nova DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7261 (76:49)

Now that Nicholas Maw is gone, David Matthews (b.1943) has in recent years emerged as the inheritor and exponent of the great 20th-century tradition typified by Tippett and Britten Read more (whose assistant he served as for four years at Aldebugh). And this latest release exemplifies Dutton’s continuing commitment to this increasingly prodigious English master who has already amassed seven symphonies and a dozen string quartets.

All of the four works recorded here for the first time—including three of his several concertos (two alone for violin)—are programmed in chronological order so that his stylistic evolution over the past two decades is dramatically documented. The First Violin Concerto, dated 1980–82, started out as a single-movement quarter-hour work inspired by the fatalistically romantic Robert Bresson film Four Nights of a Dreamer, and was imbued with strong autobiographical overtones. But a year or two later Matthews added a longer second movement to create a still somewhat programmatic half-hour diptych. The music is driven—sometimes even overwhelmed—by Matthews’ characteristically unconstrained lyrical intensity and thematic fertility, although few of the ideas are actually individually distinctive or memorable, and some of the writing approaches an overload of density of texture and proliferation of incident.

With the Oboe Concerto of 1991–92 and the Second Violin Concerto of 1997–98, we see Matthews arriving at a more lucid and less convoluted manner. The Oboe Concerto is almost more in the nature of a suite, with some mild jazz touches, especially in a “Moderate Blues,” which occasionally recalls Milhaud’s La Création du Monde. This concerto is considerably more low-key and approachable than the flamboyant four-movement Second Violin Concerto. However, even in the Oboe Concerto, one is often aware of the composer’s tendency to over-elaboration and over-complication. Instead of trying to follow the various paragraphs and sections within paragraphs the composer specifies in his annotation, the listener is better off just letting the score’s unending lyrical flow—seemingly spontaneous but apparently very carefully calculated—wash over him. Nevertheless, this second effort is a more coherent and intelligible effort than the First Violin Concerto.

The program ends with a relatively brief and even self-effacing tone poem, After Sunrise, from 2000–01, which, however superficially appealing and evocative, lacks the energy, élan and formal extravagance that make the three concertos so absorbing and fascinating.

All the performers here obviously believe very deeply in the worth of this music. The French violinist Philippe Graffin, for whom the Second Concerto was intended, offers effortlessly spine-tingling interpretations, fully matched by oboist Nicholas Daniel, while conductor George Vass (who has premiered many contemporary works) leads both the Bournemouth Symphony and his own Orchestra Nova in sonorously dazzling readings, notably abetted by Dutton’s full-bodied acoustic.

No one interested in worthwhile music of today that is meaningfully engaged with valid past traditions will want to pass up this splendid-sounding disc.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 1, Op. 31 by David Matthews
Performer:  Philippe Graffin (Violin)
Conductor:  George Vass
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Concerto for Violin no 2, Op. 57 by David Matthews
Performer:  Philippe Graffin (Violin)
Conductor:  George Vass
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Concerto for Oboe, Op. 57 by David Matthews
Performer:  Nicholas Daniel (Oboe)
Conductor:  George Vass
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
After Sunrise, Op. 82 by David Matthews
Conductor:  George Vass
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

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