Two concerts at Wigmore Hall on 28 March spotlight Colin Matthews’ longstanding artistic relationship with the Nash Ensemble, putting recent commissions alongside more rarely-heard chamber works. In an evening concert soprano Claire Booth performs Matthews’ 2020 song cycle Seascapes, conducted by Martyn Brabbins. In the afternoon the Nash Ensemble are joined by students from the Royal Academy of Music for performances of Matthews’ chamber works Dual (for solo viola, composed as part of the RAM 200 Pieces project in 2021), Time Stands Still, and 23 Frames – which both receive their first performances in over a decade.
Booth and the Nash Ensemble premiered Seascapes, a 13-minute setting of poet Sidney Keyes in 2021 at Wigmore Hall; the five poems set are scored for a dark-hued group of nine instruments: alto flute, oboe, bass clarinet, horn, harp, piano, violin, viola, and cello. The concert also features a performance of George Benjamin’s Viola, Viola from Timothy Ridout and Lars Anders Tomter, and new works by Julian Anderson.
The Nash Ensemble have premiered numerous works by Matthews, including The Great Journey for baritone and ensemble (1988) and LXX, a 2010 piece for twelve instruments celebrating the 70th birthday of Nash Ensemble founder Amelia Freedman.
Claire Booth has premiered Matthews’ The Island (2007), a setting of Rainer Maria Rilke (commissioned by the Nash Ensemble) and Spleen: A Land of Rain, a 25-minute song cycle of Nicholas Moore’s translations of Baudelaire, whose premiere was conducted by Oliver Knussen in 2017. He describes his warm working relationship with Booth in an interview here.
23 Frames (another Nash Ensemble commission, premiered in 1994) is scored for an unusual combination of horn viola, cello, and piano. The shutter-like ‘frames’ of the title are thirty-second musical episodes that add up to a twelve-minute piece in one movement; the sequence of these frames and their instrumentation was determined by Matthews’ daughter picking them at random from a hat.
Time Stands Still is five-minute trio for horn, violin, and piano, written for Simon Rattle’s 50th birthday. It is a substantial reworking of Calmo for viola and piano, composed in 1998, and shares that work’s meditative mood. The title comes from a line by the poet Eugenio Montale, ‘per te il tempo s’arresta’.
In May the LSO and François-Xavier Roth premiere Matthews’ latest orchestral work Mosaics at the Barbican Centre.