Colin Matthews has always been a master at orchestrating and completing other other composers’ music; one need think no further than his exquisite Debussy Prelude orchestrations, or his wonderfully buoyant completion of Britten’s Movements for a Clarinet Concerto. Matthews takes this a step further in his latest orchestral work, Traces Remain, in which he skilfully weaves a number of ‘traces’ (a sketched passage from Mahler’s unfinished Tenth Symphony, material from Sibelius’ lost Eight Symphony, Schoenberg’s orchestration of Beethoven’s song Adelaide and a Jacobean lute song by Robert Johnson) around his own musical narrative. The result is a powerful, almost hypnotic piece, where different styles drift in and out of focus offering fleeting perfumes of other musical lands, all underpinned by Matthews’ own serious harmonic language and unwavering sense of direction.
The 20-minute work was wonderfully realised by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, clearly relishing the expert direction of their new chief conductor Sakari Oramo.
‘engrossing pleasure from the start’
‘…Traces Remain has a sort of ferocious nostalgia that breaks through any artifice. The chewy orchestration is one engrossing pleasure from the start… As the piece gropes for resolution, via spectres of Mahler, Sibelius, and, especially, the soothing baroque cadences of a Jacobean lute song, it feels like a real journey… Sakari Oramo, who recently began his tenure as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, drew some ravishing playing here that exceeded the normal respect allotted a world premiere.’
The Times (Neil Fisher), 10 January 2014
‘eerie and atmospheric… pungently scored… darkly and powerfully expressive’
‘A new work from Colin Matthews is always welcome, and his 22-minute Traces Remain (2013) adds to our appreciation of his range… tantalisingly elusive, eerie and atmospheric, and is so from its very opening, pungently scored, and is darkly and powerfully expressive… Matthews’s music is often notable for its restraint, yet with powerful expression and also eruptive fortissimos. Matthews handles a large orchestra not only with mastery but with very precise colourings and introduces a wide perspective that, for example, involves solos for the back desk of violins, maybe on the periphery of the past. Also embracing impetuous scurrying and cathartic climaxes… it is also compelling and full of illustration… Traces Remain certainly issues an invitation to return and surely a nomination in this year’s British Composer Awards.’
Classicalsource (Colin Anderson), 9 January 2014
‘a grand 20-minute span’
‘Colin Matthews’s Traces Remain was an intriguing and at times moving evocation of the way the past lingers into the present in odd, unexpected corners… A fragment of Beethoven’s song “Adelaide”, or something that might have been Sibelius – or possibly Mahler – would suddenly loom up in the woodwind, its outlines clouded in harp and piano and murmuring string figuration. It could all have seemed a bit precious, but Matthews kept that danger at bay by embedding these evocations in a grand 20-minute span. A recurring stark call to attention, and a sense here and there of a ghostly processional, suggested that the anniversary of the First World War might also have been on his mind.’
The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 9 January 2014
‘…beautifully scored and played with luminous care... music which I’d like to hear again…’
Arts Desk (David Nice), 9 January 2014