'Symphony No 6' review

'...you can forget any depiction of a “cow looking over a gate” (the famous slur on Vaughan Williams’s pastoral streak).  Matthews’s cow jumps way across the planet.  It mingles with Mahler’s alpine climes.  The music is always on an exploratory journey, uncovering terror and beauty in a three-movement argument that keeps traditional symphonic procedures in the near distance – supporting but never stifling.
Matthews has a lively ear for colour:  I can still hear that ruminant contrabass clarinet and the marimba-vibraphone duel.  But it’s his structural grip and the music’s inevitability that makes this symphony so successful.  And important'
The Times (Geoff Brown), 6 August 2007
 
'Matthews’s new work confirms him among our most conspicuous symphonists, as well as among our stalwart adherents to tonality.  In 2004 he wrote an orchestral scherzo based on Down Ampney for the Three Choirs Festival, only to realise the movement could be a centrepiece of a symphony.  To go with it, he devised a big-boned, vigorous yet tantalising first movement, modelled on the development-lite first movement of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, and an adagio finale whose double-dotted tutti climax seems a nod to the closing adagio of Bruckner.
The argument is not only firm but interesting; the sensibility deeply serious but adventurous, too, far from slavishly conservative; and there are memorable felicities, such as the scherzo’s glittering, frenetic cadenza for vibraphone and marimba.  It is indubitably a work to listen to again.’
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 12 August 2007
 
'A Vaughan Williams hymn tune is the thread from which Matthews weaves the work, but he does more than play “theme and variations” with it.  He fashions it into a scintillating rhapsody.
It is meticulously crafted, but Matthews allows himself elements of playful fantasy: Fruity writing for contrabass clarinet and the tubbiest of tubas, slinky passages for marimba and vibraphone, some exquisite music to evoke dawn in the final movement'
Evening Standard (Nick Kimberley), 3 August 2007

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