Saturday, August 30, 2014

Social media hysteria will not help new music

I decided to set some of the Vespers texts that Monteverdi had set, but I did not want to write an orthodox Roman Catholic Vespers. Religious music is difficult to write nowadays because most composers (I think it is fair to speak generally) can no longer feel themselves part of established religions; yet the religious impulse is there in all of us, and religious works of some kind are, I think, still needed. So perhaps the only approach one can adopt is as an individual, stating what one can believe and no longer attempting to uphold doctrines that are no longer tenable.
Those refreshingly frank and level-headed thoughts come from David Matthews' note for the new recording of his Vespers and Seventh Symphony. After first immersing himself in the music of Michael Tippett and then spending three years as an assistant to Benjamin Britten, David Matthews (b.1943) emerged as a pioneer of tonal compromise. This important stylistic school avoids academic sterility while also avoiding romantic platitudes; the Seventh Symphony was commissioned from David Matthews to complement Mahler's Seventh, and its post-romantic modernism must surely appeal to the new generation of Mahler-fixated concertgoers.

Convincing performances, from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Carewe in the Seventh Symphony and together with the Bach Choir conducted by David Hill in the Vespers, earn this disc a strong recommendation, as does David Matthews' invocation of the Hindu god of destruction Kali in the Alma Redemptoris Mater of the Vespers. Particular mention should be made of the remarkably lifelike sound - particularly in the expansive climaxes of the Vespers - captured by the Dutton Epoch production team in the Lighthouse Poole. Independent label Dutton have recorded six of David Matthews' seven symphonies, while NMC have completed the cycle to date with a re-issue of a Collins Classics recording of the Fourth.

As I said in my last post, the BBC's treatment of new music is scandalous. But what is equally scandalous is that the music journalists who are leading the current witch-hunt against BBC Four TV, themselves only champion new music when it suits their opportunistic personal agendas - which means when it provides them with a Sinfini Music splash, a BBC Radio 3 appearance, an exclusive newspaper feature, or Twitter fodder. There is a huge amount of deserving new music out there that does not ever receive a Proms performance, a Sinfini Music splash, a Radio 3 mention, a newspaper feature, or Twitter coverage, yet alone a BBC Four TV broadcast. Spreading the word, even when it does not suit personal agendas, would be a far more productive way to support new music than the current social media hysteria over three minutes of missing Birtwistle.

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2 comments:

Pliable said...

Paul Dickens comments via Facebook:

Funnily enough I was listening to this just the other day Bob - a new composer for me that I wish I had discovered earlier.

Pliable said...

Longstanding reader John Shimwell has pointed out that I am wrong in attributing the recording of David Matthews Fourth Symphony to Unicorn-Kanchana. It is his Cantiga, one of the couplings on the NMC conflation, that was first recorded by Unicorn, while the Symphony was a Collins Classics recording.