> MATTHUS Cello Concerto 0094522BC [HC]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Siegfried MATTHUS (born 1934)
Cello Concerto (1975)
Symphony No.2 (1976)

Josef Schwab (cello)
Orchester der Komische Oper Berlin/Siegfried Matthus
Recorded: SRK Berlin, September 1978
BERLIN CLASSICS 0094522 BC [52:14]

Siegfried Matthus’s Cello Concerto, completed in 1975, is a quite substantial work in three movements played without a break, cast in an accessible, expressionist idiom somewhat redolent of, say, Berg or late Lutoslawski. The first movement opens with an arresting brass gesture and then alternates episodes of calm or violence, all based on germ cells stated at the very beginning of the piece. The cello, in turn declamatory or lyrical, is present most of the time. The mood of the first movement is troubled, anguished and at times angry, but there are some moments of respite such as the beautiful cantabile section about half way through the movement, magically scored for cello and strings. The first movement ends with a big cadenza leading straight into the second movement Lento; for the most part a peaceful, delicately scored rêverie, the course of which is at times disrupted by more disturbing episodes. The final Prestissimo, a brilliant nervous rondo, does much to dispel the tension accumulated in the course of the preceding movements though its final peroration is hard won indeed, if at all, for the movement ends with a mighty orchestral glissando, a dismissive Basta! rather than a triumphant Yawp! Matthus’s Cello Concerto is an impressive piece of music that definitely deserves to be better known and picked-up by cellists willing to add a warmly expressive, deeply human new work to their repertoire.

The Second Symphony of 1976 has much in common with the Cello Concerto as to its aims and means. It is laid-out in the customary four movements though these again are played without breaks - emphasising the thematic unity of the work which develops earlier material throughout its length. The opening Sostenuto begins rather cautiously, in a brooding mysterious mood, but the brass soon state a more assertive motive. The movement alternates these basic materials without any real development and without reaching any real climax, uncertainty and ambiguity prevailing throughout the movement which ends with a varied restatement of its opening. Nervous fanfares lead into the uneasy, agitated Scherzo section Allegro assai which at the ends peters out and leads into the Lento section which has much in common with the slow movement of the Cello Concerto, especially its delicate scoring with lightly tinkling sounds, long melodic lines as the one played by the flute right at the start. However the predominantly nocturnal mood of the slow movement is disturbed by a more agitated central section. A restatement of the opening melody, now played by the oboe, ends the movement but is interrupted by the bassoon introducing the Finale Allegro moderato, also some sort of nervous rondo moving along at great speed towards the surprisingly subdued and questioning conclusion. Again, a very fine piece of music of great expressive power.

These fine works undoubtedly deserve to be better known and these 1978 recorded performances conducted by the composer serve them well (and still sound remarkably well). 20th Century mainstream symphonism, maybe, but well worth investigating for Matthus’ music is deeply honest, uncompromising though highly communicative.

Hubert CULOT

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