D Matthews: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2; Oboe Concerto; After Sunrise
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin), Nicholas Daniel (oboe); Bournemouth SO; Orchestra Nova/George Vass


Three admirable concertos, two of them (Violin Concerto No. 2 and the Oboe Concerto) performed by their dedicatees. David Matthews characterises himself as a composer who thinks primarily in terms of melody, and it’s certainly the melodic aspects of concerto form – the solo voice against the collective – that seem to be the imaginative spur in all these works. They’re also all intimate in tone, and scored for smallish ensembles, so there’s plenty of give-and-take and textural interweaving to beguile the ear. 

The First Violin Concerto (1980-82) is perhaps the most intriguing, with its two-movement form and an inspiration partly autobiographical, partly derived from an atmospheric Dostoevsky story. The extensive Vivacissimo finale, added two years later to the original one-movement design, provides the most breathtaking bravura on the disc, superbly negotiated by Philippe Graffin, whose beauty of tone in the slower, gentler sections is also a thing to marvel at. 


Nicholas Daniel is no less eloquent in the Oboe Concerto, with its sequence of five short movements, including a spellbinding, smoky blues. After Sunrise, written (like Violin Concerto No. 2) in Australia and (also like the Concerto) evoking Australian bird-songs, nevertheless sounds an entirely authentic extension of the British tradition of orchestral nature poem (Vaughan Williams-Tippett-Maw). George Vass directs deftly and effectively throughout. A disc well worth acquiring to place along with Dutton’s previous releases of Matthews’s orchestral works. Calum MacDonald