A Composer’s Landscape: David Matthews, a new film from director Barrie Gavin, will be screened at the Presteigne Festival on 25 August as part of their celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday.

Gavin’s 50-minute film explores Matthews’ multifaceted relationship with landscape, deriving its themes from Matthews’ intense responses to the beauty of the natural world. Landscape has been an important musical stimulus for Matthews, but he also draws inspiration from books, and from the masses of pencil and watercolour sketches he has produced. Gavin’s film takes Matthews’ work desk as a starting point for a journey through nature which binds Matthews’ music to a coherent theme.

Gavin himself lives in the Welsh borders near Presteigne, landscape evoked in Matthews’ 2014 orchestral work Toward Sunrise, which he dedicated to the filmmaker. Gavin’s films have been acclaimed for their insights into key figures of twentieth and twenty-first century music, including Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Jonathan Harvey, and Colin Matthews. A Composer’s Landscape will also be screened at the Little Missenden Festival in October, which also celebrates Matthews’ music this year.

Matthews has a longstanding relationship with Presteigne, which last year saw the world premiere of Matthews’ Oboe Sonata from Nicholas Daniel and Huw Watkins, and solo piano work A Fugue For Hugh from Tim Horton. This year George Vass conducts Matthews’ Three Birds and a Farewell (2011) with the Presteigne Festival Orchestra in the Festival Finale concert on 28 August. The five-movement suite for strings is another expression of Matthews’ creative attachment to the natural world, especially birdsong, giving voice in its 9-minute span to thrush, cuckoo, and blackbird.

Vass also conducts The Sleeping Lord on 24 August, a 1992 work for soprano accompanied by a chamber ensemble of flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet. It is a 14-minute setting of David Jones’ late poem of the same name, which imagines the mythology of the late Roman and Celtic period in Britain. Its imagery is concerned with not just the prophesied return of King Arthur – the sleeping lord of the title – but also the renewal of the natural world in spring after the sleep of winter. Zoe Drummond sings the soprano solo alongside the Festival Ensemble.  

Other performances of Matthews’ music at the Festival include Adonis (2007) for violin and piano from Mathilde Milwidsky and Ivana Gavrić, a 12-minute piece in three movements that reflects Matthews’ fascination with Classical art and literature. Adonis’ rebirth in the final movement symbolises the eternal renewal of the spring. On 25 August Catriona Scott performs Three Roman Miniatures for solo clarinet (2000), another work built on Classical foundations. The 5-minute piece draws in turn on the poetry of Roman emperor Hadrian, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Ovid’s account of the death of Actaeon in his Metamorphosis.