'The work abounds with arresting touches.’  ​Huddersfield Daily Examiner

Instrumentation

2.2.2.bcl.2 - 4231 - timp - perc(2) cyms/susp.cym/tam-t/TD/BD - harp - strings

Availability

Full score, vocal score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

I. Estrangement – II. Aftermath –  Interlude – III. Childhood Beliefs

It might seem perverse to choose to set poetry of the First World War in a work commissioned for the millennium. But we cannot celebrate the twenty first century without absorbing the lessons of the twentieth; and besides, Edmund Blunden (1896 - 1974) was no conventional war poet, even though he spent more time at the front than any of his colleagues. In the midst of the horrors of the battlefield he was able to sustain a remarkable sense of landscape and place: he remained at heart a pastoral poet.

In making these settings I have been particularly concerned to underline the essential gentleness of Blunden. That is not to pretend that there is no darkness: the first poem depicts a bleak war-torn landscape, yet the mood is one of nobility rather than bitterness. The central part is a dance of death, in which the poem's imagery paints an objective picture of war: almost as if removed from personal experience. A short interlude for strings and harp introduces the final part, not explicitly a war poem, but one where a pastoral childhood landscape gradually merges into something like nightmare. I have tempered the awesome vision of Blunden's final stanza by returning to the mood of the beginning, and a murmured memory of the heart-breakingly beautiful fourth verse.

Blunden's (prose) memoirs were called Undertones of War, and in calling this work Aftertones I wanted both to evoke his world, and to suggest an echo from the not so distant past. Aftertones is dedicated to Martyn Brabbins and to the Huddersfield Choral Society.

Colin Matthews

Reviews

‘The score… seemed to bid fare for a place within a hallowed British tradition.  It is the vision of a beloved landscape blasted by association with the field of France that gives an original slant of the poems chosen , and gives the significantly titled Aftertones its interestingly different perspective from the War Requiem.’
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 28 May 2000
 
‘Vivid, striking and cast in an accessible, harmonically consistent idiom. The jewel of this triptych is the middle movement with its translucent orchestration and echoes of Tippett and Purcell.’
The Yorkshire Post (Robert Cockroft), 22 May 2000
 
‘Matthews is the sort of contemporary composer who, while embracing many features of today’s musical language, is still able to communicate directly to his audience… From the powerful opening threnody, via the Mahlerian ‘Interlude’ for string and harp to the ravishing simplicity of the closing bars for unaccompanied chorus, the work abounds with arresting touches (Matthews’ orchestration is especially vivid).’
Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Adrian Smith), 22 May 2000

Aftertones

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

Aftertones

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

Hallé Orchestra & Choir, Lu Jia

Aftertones

Bridgewater Hall (Manchester, United Kingdom)

Hallé Orchestra, Lu Jia

Aftertones

Town Hall (Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom)

English Northern Philharmonia, Huddersfield Choral Society, Martyn Brabbins