'The effect is enthralling.'   The Guardian


1.1.1.bcl.1 - 1100 - perc(1): BD+foot ped/hi-hat/wdbl/(tam-t)/flexatone/vib/glsp/(mar) - pno(= elec keyboard ad lib) - harp - 2 vln.vla.vlc.db


Facsimile score 0-571-51187-2 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes

The theory of hidden variables - largely rejected in the world of particle physics - is (to simplify it absurdly) an attempt to remove from quantum mechanics its inherent, and - to the layman - disturbing uncertainty. It would be pretentious in the extreme to try to mirror this in music. In this piece various styles, some more fashionable than others (including my own) collide and give rise to unexpected juxtapositions, and the title implies little more than that there is something going on beneath the surface. The form of the work is a 13-minute Scherzo, which consists of a set of interlocking variations, with an unvarying time signature (6/4) and same very fast tempo throughout. H

idden Variables was commissioned by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and composed between October 1988 and March 1989. It was first performed by the BCMG in May 1989 under Peter Donohoe with subsequent performances led by Sir Simon Rattle in March 1990. The U.S. premiere was given at the Tanglewood Music Center in August 1991 under Robert Spano. At the request of Michael Tilson Thomas, Hidden Variables was orchestrated for a joint commission by the London Symphony Orchestra and the New World Symphony Orchestra for performances in 1992 and 1993.



'Because the variations overlap, Matthews is able to vary the momentum by the discrete and gradual introduction of patches of tinkling minimalism. The quick tempo is sustained but, confined to the repetitive rhythmic figuration and static harmonies of these passages, progress is effectively halted until it is abruptly set in motion again.  Difficult though it must be to achieve such an amalgam of styles, Matthews does it here with much wit and imagination …”
The Guardian (Gerald Larner), 15 May 1989
'A set of variations predominantly fast in tempo, and bound together by insistent rhythmic pulses, around which he weaves diaphanous webs of string and wind arpeggios.  He makes brilliant contrasting use of the two brass instruments, brooding sonorously here, erupting explosively there.  Piano and harp supply a glittering patina of sound, particularly in the passages where the composer ‘lapses’ into minimalist major keys … the effect is enthralling …'
The Guardian (Hugh Canning), 26 June 1989

Hidden Variables

Streamed online

No Venue (United Kingdom)

London Symphony Orchestra

Hidden Variables

Walt Disney Concert Hall (Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group/Susanna Mälkki/Leila Josefowicz

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Hidden Variables

Werner-Otto-Saal, Konzerthaus Berlin (Berlin, Germany)

Ensemble UnitedBerlin/Catherine Larsen-Maguire

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Hidden Variables

Royal Northern College of Music Concert Hall (Manchester, United Kingdom)

Royal Northern College of Music/Mark Heron

Hidden Variables

CBSO Centre (Birmingham, United Kingdom)

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Nicholas Collon