WORKS: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: East of England Orchestra/Malcolm Nabarro
CATALOGUE NO: 20082 DDD
Composed in 1989-90 for a Haydn-sized orchestra, and with touches of Haydnesque humour in its finale -a vigorous Allegro suffused with traditional hunting idioms – David Matthews’s latest symphony benefits from accomplished playing, and conducting that is mood-sensitive.
The well-paced finale is the largest of the five movements. First comes an opening movement in which individual lines, some plain, some decorated, alternate with denser textures (the inspiration here was a performance of a medieval mass, the Messe de Nostre Dame by Machaut, with plainsong interspersed); then a frenetic Scherzo, whose fierce, Spartan manner recalls the motor rhythms of John Adams, or even the dynamism of The Rite of Spring, next a shadowy, lyrical slow movement, and in place of Haydn’s minuet a slightly louche Tango recalling Mahler in the irony and ambiguity with which it views its own material.
This is perhaps the most vivid section of all, but Matthews’s sensitivity to orchestral nuance is apparent throughout, and well represented in the sharpness and
clarity of the recording, and in its wide dynamic range. George Hall