COMPOSERS: Colin Matthews
WORKS: Fourth Sonata; Suns Dance; Broken Symmetry
PERFORMER: London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen
CATALOGUE NO: 447 067-2 DDD
This is a very remarkable disc but not one for a quiet evening’s listening! Three substantial works dating from 1974, 1984 and 1991 by one of Britain’s most brilliant middle-generation composers, Colin Matthews, are given white-hot performances by the London Sinfonietta, conducted with extraordinary control by Oliver Knussen. All three works demand virtuoso playing; the speeds are often terrifyingly fast and the dynamics terrifyingly loud. Knussen achieves intense and passionate playing of notable clarity and confidence.
The London Sinfonietta is greatly expanded for the early and late works, Fourth Sonata and Broken Symmetry, both of which could be described as frequently ferocious. Matthews acknowledges that Fourth Sonata was written when he was ‘unexpectedly drawn’ to American minimalism, and the final section certainly doffs its cap.
The early violence in Fourth Sonata carries through twenty years later to Broken Symmetry, which Matthews hopes will leave an impression of ‘unremitting energy’: it does. Written for large orchestra, its dedicatees include the percussionist David Johnson, who died tragically in 1990, and in whose memory batteries of drums and percussion dominate. Suns Dance, written for ten players (although in this balance sounding like many more), reflects extremes of timbre and is a brilliant vehicle for the members of the London Sinfonietta.