WORKS: Cello Concerto; Sonata No. 5 (Landscape)
PERFORMER: Alexander Baillie (cello); London Sinfonietta*, Berlin RSO/John Carewe
CATALOGUE NO: UKCD 2058 DDD
These days Colin Matthews writes prolifically for orchestra, and if you have had your attention caught by a recent encounter you will be intrigued by the present reissue of music from ten to 15 years ago. It certainly has the same fulminating, volcanic quality, but much of it is barer, more dogged and lyrical, more ‘British’ in its brooding accumulations of brass chords and growling retreats. Both pieces would be worth the time of anybody who enjoys long spans of music with a gradual rise and fall of tension and can take a generally atonal but often melodically led idiom.
Each of the Cello Concerto’s two movements has a memorable event by any standards: on the one hand a scary episode of screaming piccolos and anarchic drums, with the soloist emerging like the flight of a hunted bumble-bee, and on the other a pivotal passage of dense, quiet chords. Landscape has the shape, and the half-hour length, of the finale of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony: three waves of inexorable growth and acceleration, with catastrophic climaxes and a summary ending like a triple rocket launch. Performances are reliable and often much more, catching the excitement of what was then a high-risk journey. Robert Maycock