David Matthews has a long association with the music of Vaughan Williams, both as an editor of his music and as a fellow member of the English symphonic tradition.
Matthews’s Sixth Symphony (2007) is permeated by Vaughan Williams’s hymn tune ‘Down Ampney’ whilst in 2010 Dark Pastoral, based on surviving fragments of the slow movement of a proposed Cello Concerto, was premiered by Steven Isserlis and the BBC Concert Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
In a new project that goes even beyond ‘completion’, the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society have commissioned Matthews to compose a work based on the programme note of the lost Norfolk Rhapsody No.3 (written in 1906).
Matthews has brought together four folk songs alluded to in the programme note to create a 10-minute work which will receive its first performance at the English Music Festival at Dorchester Abbey on 27 April, with the BBC Concert Orchestra under Martin Yates.
However, in the centenary of the worst year of the First World War, thoughts of what might have happened to those soldiers in 1916 caused Matthews to make a drastic change from what Vaughan Williams would have done:
‘Though I do not stray far from the programme note,’ says Matthews, ‘the piece becomes suddenly dark and sinister, and the fortissimo and largamente statement of ‘‘Ward the Pirate’’ is a grim funeral march. My coda begins with a wistful recollection of ‘‘The Lincolnshire Farmer’’ on solo violin, but ending with a kind of ‘‘last post’’ on the trumpets, deliberately recalling Vaughan Williams’s trumpet solo in his Pastoral Symphony, his own First World War statement.’