Matthews/Mahler

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Matthews/Mahler
LABELS: Unicorn-Kanchana
WORKS: Cantiga; September Music; Introit; Seven Early Songs (orch.Matthews)
PERFORMER: Jill Gomez (soprano)/ Bournemouth Sinfonietta/ John Carewe
CATALOGUE NO: DKP(CD) 9120 DDD
Cantiga, first heard at a Prom in 1988, is based on a text by Maggie Hemingway which tells the story of Inez de Castro. Mistress of Don Pedro, heir to the Portuguese crown, she was done to death on the orders of her lover’s father in 1355. Her body was subsequently exhumed by Pedro to share his throne at his coronation.

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To this repellent (and apparently partially apocryphal) love-after-death story, David Matthews brings grateful and memorable vocal lines and wispy, finely-conceived orchestral writing. Jill Gomez, who commissioned the piece, makes the most of its opportunities. In both this and the Mahler songs she shows a particularly keen response to the words. Matthews and his composer brother Colin collaborated on orchestral versions of seven of Mahler’s songs with piano in 1964, with expert results.

September Music (1979), named after its month of composition, has a sensuous, Indian-summer feel, not so distant in mood from Delius, while Introit (1981), scored for strings, with two trumpets making a late and dramatic entrance, shares with it an almost Tippett-like visionary quality.

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The Bournemouth Sinfonietta, which is conducted by John Carewe, has its rougher moments but also a keen attack, hardly flattered by the enclosed sound quality.George Hall