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In the Dark Time; Chaconne
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jac van Steen
NMC D067 [47.28]
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

There was a time when David was seen as the more conservative of the Matthews brothers, somewhat in the shadow of Colin, moving spirit of the NMC label and producer of this fine CD. But now, with the current swing against modernism, is David's time and in these two major works for large orchestra, both underpinned by tonality. The composer provides his own commentaries on these symphonic poems, as he thinks of them. In the Dark Time (1984-85) works out the possibilities inherent in a complex chord which combines Bb, D & A triads. There is a four-note motive (G, Ab, Bb & D) and Matthews helps those of us with the ears to hear such technicalities to map the stages of their transformations in concert with the passing seasons from October to March, the span of its composition. Chaconne (1987) evokes the carnage of a historic battle fought long ago in a (now) idyllic English pastoral countryside. The form is tight and the two chaconnes are easily recognisable as successors to those of Bach & Brahms. Fine studio recordings made at BBC Maida Vale in 1998, recommended unreservedly. You will certainly want to play these two major works, both underpinned by tonality, more than once, so no worry about short total timing.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also review by Gary Higginson

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