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Matthews: Alphabicycle Order, Concerto for Horn / Gardner, Elder, Watkins, Goodman, et al

Album Summary

>Matthews, Colin : Alphabicycle Order, for narrator, children's chorus & orchestra
>Matthews, Colin : Concerto for Horn
Performer Conductors Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This disc presents striking contrasting works from Colin Matthews. Both pieces are world premiere recordings, released to mark Halle's 150th anniversary and the re-launch of the Halle label. Alphabicycle Order is a setting of wonderfully punning children's rhymes by Christopher Reid. The Horn Concerto is a dream-like piece, with a romantic framework haunted by a series of troubled intrusions from soloists and Matthews' brilliantly written orchestration.

BBC Music Magazine
I'm not surprised that Colin Matthews says that he hugely enjoyed writing Alphabicycle Order, a setting of 26 nonsense poems by Christopher Reid. The young choristers are plainly having a ball, whilst Henry Goodman's narration strikes the right note between mock-seriousness and an acknowledgment of the ridiculous. And the music is accessible in the best sense of that much over-and mis-used word: varied, concise, often intensely rhythmic, and very much in touch with the sentiments of the poems. The Horn Concerto is a much more serious affair, with the soloist's lyrical lines competing with an offstage horn quartet... ...Richard Watkins, who gave the first performance, makes the most of the character of the protagonist...

bbc.co.uk - Charlotte Gardner
As a showcase for [Matthews's] and the orchestra's stylistic versatility, the two works on this disc - both world premiere recordings - couldn't be bettered...Richard Watkins, for whom [the Concerto] was written, plays with great lyricism, with the orchestra matching his sonorous and controlled tone to create a haunting performance.

The Telegraph
Debussy's atmospheric piano pieces have been not so much orchestrated as re-imagined by Colin Matthews...much has been gained...in shimmering effects

Gramophone Classical Music Guide
Elemental musical images of sorrow and farewell can be as prominent in contemporary composers as they were in Purcell, Beethoven or Mahler. Ligeti's Horn Trio is a particularly memorable instance, and Colin Matthews's Horn Concerto has a set of comparable associations, including the Les adieux Sonata and the 'Abschied' from Das Lied von der Erde.

Orchestral C Matthews 724 Cast as a sequence of elegies, predominantly lyrical but with occasional outbursts of rage, Matthews's music sustains its dark, questing spirit under the confident control of Sir Mark Elder in this first recording, and soloist Richard Watkins is an unfailingly eloquent presence, even when heard in the distance, offstage. The spatial aspects of the piece benefit from being seen as well as heard, but the drawbacks of a sound-only encounter are minimal, so strong is the character of the music.

In one sense the contrast provided by the companion piece could hardly be more extreme.

Alphabicycle Order, for children's choir, narrator and orchestra, is a joyously witty musical response to Christopher Reid's brilliantly surreal traversal of the alphabet, and the evident relish with which it is tackled by the Hallé's young singers, backed to the hilt by narrator Henry Goodman and the orchestra under Edward Gardner, shows just how enjoyable it must have been for everyone involved. But Matthews brings an edge and panache to the music - echoing but never merely imitating Britten - which turns what could have been simply a fun piece into something stronger and more durable. These are two excellent recordings of notably substantial 21st-century compositions.

Gramophone Magazine
Two excellent recordings of notably substantial 21st century compositions.


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Works Details

>Matthews, Colin : Alphabicycle Order, for narrator, children's chorus & orchestra
  • Conductor: Edward Gardner
  • Notes: The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, England (07/10/2007-07/11/2007)
  • Running Time: 2 min. 3 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 03/2007

>Matthews, Colin : Concerto for Horn
  • Performer: Richard Watkins (Horn)
  • Conductor: Mark Elder
  • Ensemble: Hallé Orchestra
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 03/2001