Perhaps undervalued outside the UK, Colin Matthews holds an important position as a composer and pedagogue at home and this excellent disc on NMC, the label devoted to British composition that he launched, provides a triptych of beautifully constructed works composed between 1998 and 2010.
A musical amenuensis of sorts to the Britten estate, Matthews has continued to create within a modernist framework works of a grave yet touching beauty which bring togeher French harmonies with a soundworld somewhat similar to that of the late Hans Werner Henze. And such is the depth of ideas encountered here, that with these three works, we have a perfect introduction to this composer as well as a means of celebrating his 70th birthday.
All three works are commissions for important musicians and orchestras – the Cello Concerto for Rostropovich, the Violin Concerto is heard in a BBC broadcast from the Proms, whilst Cortege is taken up by the Concertgebouw and Riccardo Chailly. Of the three works encountered here, it is the two movement Violin Concerto, which is also the finest and the most most virtuosic. Cortege is similarly of darkened textures and colours though not necessarily funereal in nature. Whilst it would be nice to hear the original dedicatee in the Cello Concerto, all of the musicians in this excellent recording make this a celebration indeed.