On 10 June the Kreutzer Quartet continue their longstanding collaboration with David Matthews with the premiere of his String Quartet No.17 at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival. Cast in a traditional four-movement shape, it opens with a flamboyant introductory gesture from each instrument in turn, inaugurating a short sonata-form movement. A second-movement scherzo is played pizzicato throughout, whilst the B-flat minor slow movement, quiet and contemplative in mood, has a plangent theme that recalls Matthews’ 12th quartet (also written for the Kreutzers).
The final movement was inspired by a dream, aptly evoking the music of Benjamin Britten – though Matthews did not know at the time the piece would premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival. He writes,
I was sitting at a rather beautiful upright piano with a vocal score of Billy Budd: I had just attended a rehearsal, but the music I heard wasn’t Britten’s, neither was the vocal score’s. I played five andante bars, then woke up and found I could remember what I had played exactly, so wrote it down and decided I could use it for the opening of my finale.
This opening leads to an allegro varying the theme, before a fugue. A an exuberant coda concludes the piece, following a brief return of the earlier andante.
The 17-minute piece is Matthews’ sixth piece for the Kreutzers, having previously premiered his 10th, 12th, 13th, and 14th, and 15th Quartets; since 2012 they have been engaged in a multi-volume project to record all of Matthews’ explorations of the form. Click here to watch the Kreutzer Quartet perform Matthews’ 13th Quartet, written in memory of Peter Sculthorpe, at Wilton’s Music Hall.
Matthews celebrated his 80th birthday in March this year. The summer will see a focus on his music from Deal and Presteigne Festivals, both keen champions of his music over the years. On 7 June John Storgårds conducts the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in the Finnish premiere of Matthews’ chamber orchestra arrangement of Leoš Janáček’s On an Overgrown Path at the Naantali Music Festival. Later in June Matthews’ arrangement of Chopin’s Nocturne No.1 for strings (2014) will feature in the Scottish Ensemble’s programme celebrating the summer solstice in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Perthshire, and Strathpeffer.