William Mathias’s love
of life is the first thing that strikes
the listener. This collection of shorter
works from a variety of sources (see
title) reveals many facets of this composer’s
imagination – indeed, this could serve
as the ideal introduction to Mathias’
The exuberant Dance
Overture evokes the Celtic spirit
of the dance, with the LSO enjoying
each and every accent. It makes the
ideal opener for the disc. The Divertimento,
Op. 7 of three years previous is the
student work that led to a publishing
contract with Oxford University Press.
Of its three movements, it is the central
Lento non troppo that is the most memorable.
It is the English Chamber Orchestra,
here, that sets up a haunting, hypnotic
atmosphere (interestingly, in the Prelude,
Aria and Finale for String Orchestra
it is the ‘Aria’ that is the most affecting
movement). The unsettled undercurrent
to the music of this Lento seems to
introduce a new, deeper element, only
to be banished by the Bartókian
spiciness of the finale.
Concurrent with the
Dance Overture, the Invocation
and Dance, Op. 17 is made up of
the purest joy. The very opening is
almost Coplandish (it sounds like the
slower parts of Rodeo to me –
this passage is what the composer described
as ‘a broad-spanned summons to attention’)
and indeed most of the Invocation
is terrifically delicate (listen out
for a beautifully-realised oboe solo).
The Dance is positively bursting with
energy – once again, the LSO’s virtuoso
side is to the fore.
was written for a youth orchestra (the
Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra),
so it is entirely fitting that it is
the 1975 National Youth Orchestra of
Wales that is featured on the present
recording. The influence of jazz and
blues can be heard, especially in the
second and third movements. Mathias’s
music is so obviously suited to performance
by young people that this emerges as
one of the highlights of the disc. The
recording is up-front and exciting.
Mathias wrote a sequence
of single-movement orchestral works
that he described as ‘landscapes of
the mind’. The last two offerings are
instances of these ‘imaginary landscapes’
(Helios of 1977 and Requiescat
of 1978 are further examples). Laudi,
in accordance with its title, concentrates
on prayer and praise. The scoring is
masterly – a Stravinskian influence
is present that adds a most attractive
(to this listener) edge to the music.
Finally, Vistas of 1975. Inspired
by a visit to America, the music speaks
evocatively of large open expanses.
Detailed and informative
notes from the composer’s daughter,
Rhiannon, offer an excellent guide to
this delightful disc. Recommended.