C Matthews: Concerto No. 1; Hidden Variables; Memorial; Quatrain; Machines and Dreams

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WORKS: Concerto No. 1; Hidden Variables; Memorial; Quatrain; Machines and Dreams
PERFORMER: Alexander Baillie (cello); London Sinfonietta, Berlin RSO/John Carewe; LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas
Landscape, as the title might suggest, is one of the most Birtwistlian of Colin Matthews’s scores, with massive climaxes, rhythmic pulsings and tintinnabulating wind and tuned percussion. But there’s also a lyricism that comes partly from the German tradition, and this is even more to the fore in the predominantly slow second movement of the First Cello Concerto, where the slow progress of the orchestra is reinforced by Baillie’s plangent solo line. He’s just as impressive when conveying the ghostly energy of the first movement, an energy which carries over into the second disc, especially in Hidden Variables, where various minimalist composers are alluded to with wicked accuracy. There’s energy stored in the tightly coiled spring of Memorial as well, where Matthews’s absolutely sure harmonic sense screws up the tension through what’s essentially a long, slow processional. Michael Tilson Thomas and the LSO are as convincing in this as in the harder-edged Quatrain, and the high jinks of Machines and Dreams, where children add to the minimalist textures of the machine movements, playing toy pianos, bird calls, and electronic games, ending up with an invasion of football hooligans. But whether it’s fun or serious, this is all music that compels you to listen. Martin Cotton