The Concerto form is an inherently dramatic one with the soloist and orchestra locked in dialogue. In his Horn Concerto, Colin Matthews takes this premise a step further and casts the horn soloist as ‘a wanderer’ who slips around the concert stage and through the back, leading the ear in a sonic journey where the solo line explores an impressive range of acoustic possibilities. The piece was first performed in 2001 and was revived this summer at the Aldeburgh Festival, where an enthralled audience watched the drama unfold as soloist Richard Watkins took to the stage with the CBSO and conductor Ilan Volkov.
‘…Matthews’s superb horn concerto… According to the programme note, “the horn solo is, literally, a wanderer”. And it was refreshing to find that they didn’t mean figuratively. The concerto began with both Watkins and Volkov absent from the stage… Volkov then tiptoed onto the podium to take up the reins while Watkins made himself heard from the wings. As the twenty minute, single movement work progressed, he made his way across the stage. This was more than just a gimmick as the sound of the horn changed in interesting ways with the Maltings’ acoustic… as if that wasn’t enough, Matthews provided extra horns by the upper doors for a quadraphonic effect. All this made for an experience that was not only excellent musically but also theatrically. It is always nice to come out of a performance of a contemporary piece wondering why on earth it isn’t performed more often, and this was certainly one such.’
Where’s Runnicles blog (Tam Pollard), 16 June 2013