Matthus

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COMPOSERS: Matthus
LABELS: Berlin Classics
WORKS: Judith
PERFORMER: Eva-Maria Bundschuh, Werner Haseleu, Christiane Röhr, Hans-Otto Rogge; Berlin Radio Choir, Komische Oper, Berlin, Orchestra & Chorus/Rolf Reuter
CATALOGUE NO: 0093392 BC
With the obvious exceptions of Stockhausen and Henze, I suspect that contemporary Austro-German music is largely a closed book to most anglophone listeners. Even a senior figure such as Helmut Lachenmann, feted on the continent, has yet to make much of an inroad in the UK, and that’s as much, if not more, true of composers from the former GDR.

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A prime example is the 64-year-old Siegfried Matthus who, despite a well-received production of his 1985 opera Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke by Glyndebourne Touring Opera and

a Prom outing last year for his tone-poem Der Wald, has still to receive the attention he may well deserve.

That’s a pity, because Judith is a powerful, intensely theatrical opera, the equal, I would maintain, of any by Henze and – by virtue of its scintillating orchestral colours and sharper harmonic focus – arguably superior. With its eponymous decapitating heroine there are obvious literary parallels with Strauss’s Salome. But there are musical ones too: Matthus’s ear

for orchestral colour is relentlessly inventive, and when need be his vocal lines can soar and dive as ecstatically and beguilingly, not

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least in this involving performance, recorded in 1986 soon after the work’s premiere, by Berlin’s Komische Oper. Antony Bye