Here, like Beethoven in his slow movements, Matthews aims for the heart.’   The Guardian

Instrumentation

2.2.2.2.cbsn - 4200 - timp - strings (min.12.10.8.8.6)

Availability

Score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

My starting point for this piece was the fanciful thought of Beethoven returning to his Eighth Symphony 200 years later and realising that he had forgotten to write a slow movement. Not that there is any implication that this Grand Barcarolle could be inserted into the Eighth Symphony - stylistic considerations aside, that would be a pointless exercise. But I began by working with elements of the symphony, as well as of the roughly contemporary piano sonatas Op. 81a and 101, and composing some Beethoven pastiche of my own. This material was largely submerged in the process of composition, and I found to my surprise that another composer was coming to the surface: the first draft was in fact completed on the 100th anniversary of Mahler's death. So perhaps appropriately a centenary as well as a bicentenary is commemorated here.

I am very grateful to Riccardo Chailly for proposing the challenge of writing this work, which has pushed me into unexpected stylistic directions. Being restricted to Beethoven's orchestra was a further discipline : contemporary composers are not used to having to do without percussion (which, although allowed by the terms of the commission, I decided not to use) or harp.

Why a barcarolle? Largely because Beethoven never wrote one, so there would be no invidious comparisons : though had he done so it would surely have been a Grosse Barcarolle.

C.M.

Reviews

‘A piece that toys with the fact that Beethoven left the Eighth Symphony without a slow movement, but nods equally towards Mahler in its sombre melodiousness. A barcarolle is a gondolier’s song, and we soon heard the water, first rippling in the overlapping woodwind, then becoming choppier, more glinting. The writing is richly melodic – slow, song-like and serenely beautiful… Here, like Beethoven in his slow movements, Matthews aims for the heart, and hits its target just as surely.’
The Guardian (Erica Jeal), 2 November 2012
 
‘Flowing with gently dislocated barcarolle rhythms, it has a seriousness well matched to this great orchestra.’
The Telegraph (John Allison), 26 October 2011
 
‘Modest in its concentration of textures and its absence of percussion or harp, yet grand in its breadth of conception, the characteristic rocking pulse disturbed by downdraughts of violin eddies, florid flashes of tiny woodwind cadenzas, and moments of strange and sudden freeze.’
The Times (Hilary Finch), 4 November 2011 

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