C Matthews: Divertimento for Double String Quartet; Oboe Quartet No. 1; Triptych; Five Concertinos for Wind Quintet; String Quartet No. 2

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COMPOSERS: C Matthews
LABELS: NWC
ALBUM TITLE: C Matthews
WORKS: Divertimento for Double String Quartet; Oboe Quartet No. 1; Triptych; Five Concertinos for Wind Quintet; String Quartet No. 2
PERFORMER: Ensemble; Haffner Wind Ensemble; Brindisi Quartet; Divertimenti Ensemble/Oliver Knussen
CATALOGUE NO: D 149

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Now in his early sixties, composer Colin Matthews makes music out of the tension between musical styles, rather than settling comfortably inside just one. That’s an admirably honest response to our culturally uncertain times, and Matthews has the virtuoso technique to bring it off. It can lead to forbidding complexity, particularly in his orchestral pieces. But in these small-scale works, Matthews is ambiguous in a more immediate and appealing way. The first piece on this CD, Divertimento, starts off Romantically like a half-forgotten piece by Richard Strauss, but soon a very modern anxiety creeps in. It’s music that needs edge-of-the-seat energy and precision to bring off, which it certainly receives here from the Divertimenti Ensemble. At the opposite pole to that lushness are the Five Concertinos for Wind Quintet, which are witty in a comic and slightly grotesque way. But the most gripping thing here is the Second String Quartet in which Matthews combines the darting, allusive quality of the other pieces with a really powerful sense of forward momentum. He’s helped enormously by a blistering performance from the Brindisi String Quartet. Ivan Hewett