The long-awaited premiere of Matthews’s Ninth Symphony was chosen by The Spectator as a musical highlight of 2018. Kenneth Woods will conduct the English Symphony Orchestra on 9 May at St George’s Hall, Bristol.
The Ninth Symphony began in a modest way on 21 December 2015 when Matthews wrote a small carol for his wife Jenifer, with words about the coming of spring. The 27-minute piece unfolds in five movements, and takes the carol as a starting point. Two scherzos frame the slow movement, a slightly extended version of the string piece ‘A June Song’ that Matthews wrote in 2016 for Martin Anderson’s project ‘Music for My Love’, in memory of his partner Yodit Tekle.
The finale opens with solo violin recalling the ending of the first movement, then plunges into a long passage of uncertainty, with much use of tremolo strings. A more confident central section in compound time leads to a recapitulation and an aggressive climax, which subsides into an extended repeat of the carol in C major. It ends with an exultant proclamation of the carol as a brass chorale. Spring has arrived.
‘Matthews’s modernism is rooted in a lyrical impulse that he shares with Tippett, and there are signs that he’s finally starting to get his due.’
The Spectator (Richard Bratby), 6 January 2018
In other news, Matthews’s Eighth Symphony will be performed by the Ulster Orchestra and Jac van Steen in April as part of the PRS Foundation’s Resonate Scheme.