Colin Matthews: Machines and Dreams; Hidden Variables; Memorial; Quatrain

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Colin Matthews
LABELS: Collins
WORKS: Machines and Dreams; Hidden Variables; Memorial; Quatrain
PERFORMER: LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas
‘Anything you can do, I can do better.’ This could be Colin Matthews’s motto, on the evidence of this disc. You want elemental, grinding fury, like Birtwistle at his most granitic? Listen to the last movement of Quatrain. Or for a complete contrast, how about an enchanted garden à la Ravel, complete with hooting owls and bird-calls (these played by a group of children)? There it is, tremulous and moonlit, in Machines and Dreams. Or perhaps you’d like one of those soft-edged, easygoing, Californian road-movie pieces, which we thought Steve Reich had made his own? Well, you’ll find Reich trumped at his own game in Hidden Variables. But Matthews’s wizardry doesn’t stop there. Having conjured up these utterly disparate things, he wants to prove that, musically speaking, oil and water can indeed mix. So in Hidden Variables, modernist agony turns into Reich, and then, a bit later, into John Adams. It’s all fabulously impressive, especially when played with such panache as here, and I thoroughly enjoyed it in a simple-minded sort of way. About Quatrain and Memorial I wasn’t so convinced. Here Matthews takes off his stylistic masks and speaks in his own voice, and the results to me seemed rather soulless. But with all those pyrotechnics to be dazzled by, who needs soul? Ivan Hewett