Colin Matthews (1946-present)

Episodes

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01Colin Matthews and Minimalism20180102

Donald Macleod explores works by Colin Matthews inspired by music of the past.

Donald Macleod explores works by Colin Matthews inspired by music of the past including Minimalism, Mahler and Strauss

Composer of the Week explores the life and music of contemporary composer Colin Matthews, through the lens of being inspired by composers and music of the past. As part of BBC Radio 3's New Year, New Music season, Colin Matthews joins Donald Macleod in studio to discuss the influences of past music upon his own works. Although he doesn't see himself as part of any musical school or tradition, he does acknowledge that for him the most important period in musical history is the first two decades of the twentieth century, and that the likes of Schoenberg, Berg, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler and Britten have all had an impact upon his own music.

Colin Matthews learned the piano from a young age, but his real musical education came when he began to devour music scores from Leytonstone Library including works by Strauss and Ravel. In 1960 came the Mahler centenary when he had the opportunity to hear all the symphonies by Mahler, and from that point he became obsessed with the composer. Matthews in particular was struck by the scope of Mahler's music, the scale and variety achieved.

As a composer himself Colin Matthews explored Serialism, but he arrived at a stage when he was wanting something else. Minimalism was like a breath of fresh air for him, in particular the early works of Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Elements of Minimalism can be heard in his Fourth Sonata, where there is little movement away from a more static tonality. In the end Matthews felt the need to move on, and his work Divertimento has a very different character. Matthews had an idea in C sharp minor which just wouldn't leave him, and so he expanded and worked with this. What evolved in Divertimento, and became a surprise for him, was the obvious links with the music of Richard Strauss.

Gustav Mahler Arr. David & Colin Matthews
Ich ging mit Lust (Lieder und Gesänge No 7)
Ruth Ziesak, soprano
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Daniele Gatti, conductor

Colin Matthews
Fourth Sonata
London Sinfonietta
Oliver Knussen, conductor

Divertimento for Double String Quartet
Divertimenti Ensemble
Oliver Knussen, conductor.

02Colin Matthews collaborates with Britten20180103

Donald Macleod surveys Britten's influence on Colin Matthews.

Donald Macleod surveys the influence of Mahler and Britten on Colin Matthews

Composer of the Week explores the life and music of contemporary composer Colin Matthews, through the lens of being inspired by composers and music of the past. As part of BBC Radio 3's New Year, New Music season, Colin Matthews joins Donald Macleod in studio to discuss the influences of past music upon his own works. Although he doesn't see himself as part of any musical school or tradition, he does acknowledge that for him the most important period in musical history is the first two decades of the twentieth century, and that the likes of Schoenberg, Berg, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler and Britten have all had an impact upon his own music.

In the early 1970s Colin Matthews had started working with Benjamin Britten, in particular helping on the vocal score for Death in Venice. After Britten had a heart operation, Matthews assisted further with the older composer's late works. Britten demonstrated what a professional composer was like, and this greatly influenced the younger collaborator. Cortege by Matthews shows possible influences of both Britten and Mahler, although the composer thinks that this is such a dark work, he still isn't sure where it came from.

The music of Mahler was an influence upon Colin Matthews from the 1960s, but in The Great Flight over two decades later, he turns to referencing music from Renaissance composer Hernando Franco in order to portray the story of the Spanish Conquistador Cabeza de Vaca. Whereas in the String Quartet No 2 from the same decade, it was the music of his former tutor from Nottingham University, Nicholas Maw, that Colin Matthews took inspiration.

Benjamin Britten Arr. Colin Matthews
A Charm of Lullabies, Op 41 (Cradle Song)
Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor

Colin Matthews
Cortege
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

The Great Journey (Flight)
David Wilson-Johnson, baritone
The Nash Ensemble
Lionel Friend, conductor

String Quartet No 2
Brindisi Quartet.

03Colin Matthews And Debussy20180104

Donald Macleod explores the influence of Debussy upon Colin Matthews.

Donald Macleod explores the influence of Debussy and Beethoven upon Colin Matthews

Composer of the Week explores the life and music of contemporary composer Colin Matthews, through the lens of being inspired by composers and music of the past. As part of BBC Radio 3's New Year, New Music season, Colin Matthews joins Donald Macleod in studio to discuss the influences of past music upon his own works. Although he doesn't see himself as part of any musical school or tradition, he does acknowledge that for him the most important period in musical history is the first two decades of the twentieth century, and that the likes of Schoenberg, Berg, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler and Britten have all had an impact upon his own music.

From a young age when Colin Matthews learned the piano, he had become familiar with the music of Debussy, in particular the preludes. Matthews had always heard them orchestrally, so when Sir Mark Elder approached him for music to perform with the Halle orchestra, Matthews turned to orchestrating Debussy's preludes. Over nearly a decade he orchestrated the complete set, and added his own Debussy influenced postlude, Monsieur Croche.

Beethoven has also long been an influence upon composer Colin Matthews, in particular the late works including piano sonatas and quartets. Matthews feels that these works demonstrate extraordinary developments in music, and it's not something he could ever aspire to emulate. Riccardo Chailly commissioned a work from Matthews to preface a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No 8. The result was his Grand Barcarolle, although Matthews feels this work owes more to the music of Mahler, than it does to Beethoven.

Crossing the Alps
Hallé Youth Choir
Paul Janes, organ
Richard Wilberforce, conductor

Broken Symmetry
London Sinfonietta
Oliver Knussen, conductor

Claude Debussy Arr. Colin Matthews
Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest (Preludes Book 1 No 7)
Hallé
Mark Elder, conductor

Colin Matthews
Postlude: Monsieur Croche
Hallé
Mark Elder, conductor

Grand Barcarolle
BBC Philharmonic
Juanjo Mena, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04Colin Matthews And Holst20180105

Donald Macleod journeys with Colin Matthews into WWI.

Donald Macleod journeys with Colin Matthews into the First World War

Composer of the Week explores the life and music of contemporary composer Colin Matthews, through the lens of being inspired by composers and music of the past. As part of BBC Radio 3's New Year, New Music season, Colin Matthews joins Donald Macleod in studio to discuss the influences of past music upon his own works. Although he doesn't see himself as part of any musical school or tradition, he does acknowledge that for him the most important period in musical history is the first two decades of the twentieth century, and that the likes of Schoenberg, Berg, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler and Britten have all had an impact upon his own music.

The music composed between 1900 and the outbreak of World War One, has always been of interest to the composer Colin Matthews. He is fascinated with all the major composers from this period, and finds the music diverse and forward looking. One work from the period is The Planets by Gustav Holst, which Matthews was asked to add to. Although he was reluctant at the time to do this, he composed a movement called Pluto to accompany The Planets.

No Man's Land by Colin Matthews is a picture of the First World War. An era in history he has long been interested in. When composing this work he was keen to not be too emotional, but he includes within the score itself extracts of recorded music from the period. Traces Remain also has links to the past, or indeed traces of music from the past, including Woods, Rocks and Mountains by the English composer and lutenist Robert Johnson.

Claude Debussy Arr. Colin Matthews
Minstrels (Preludes Book 1 No 12)
Hallé
Mark Elder, conductor

Colin Matthews
No Man's Land
Ian Bostridge, tenor
Roderick Williams, baritone
Hallé
Nicholas Collon, conductor

Traces Remain
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Sakari Oramo, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.