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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Siegfried MATTHUS (b. 1934)
Manhattan Concerto - For the 70th Birthday of Siegfried MATTHUS

Concerto for trumpet, percussion and orchestra (1982) [20’45]
(1. Intrada 4’08; 2. Adagio und Passacaglia 5’45; 3. Vivace 2’49; 4. Adagio lamentoso 5’51; 5. Stretta con collera 2’12)
Robert Hofmann (trumpet); Michael Gärtner (drums)
Orchester Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken/Michael Stern
Manhattan Concerto for Orchestra (1994) [21’38]
(6. Moderato 4’02; 7. Allegro assai 7’25; 8. Adagio 3’45; 9. Cadenza · Energico 6’26)
Stephan V. Böhnlein, Michael Gärtner, Wolfram Winkel, Edgar Guggeis, (percussion)
Orchester Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken/Günther Herbig
Der Wald - Concerto for percussion and orchestra (1984) [20’03]
(10. Andante 8’34; 11. Allegro agitato · Larghetto lugubre e lamentoso 3’49; 12. Rezitativ Allegro energico e marcato · Allegro vivace risoluto 7’40)
Michael Gärtner (percussion)
Orchester Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken/Günther Herbig
Rec, Großen Sendesaal des Funkhauses am Halberg in Saarbrücken, 1 rec, 03.12.1999 - 06.12.1999, 2 06.12.2002 - 07.12.2002; 3 31.03.2003 - 01.04.2003. DDD
PERC-PRO 40012004 [62’36]


Matthus was a leading figure in East German musical life prior to the fall of the Wall and has found a path for himself under Unification. His music has been recorded fairly extensively and there are a number of other reviews on this site:-

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Feb02/Matthus_Das_Land.htm

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Feb02/Matthus_cello_concerto.htm

He was born in Mallenuppen in the former East Prussia. Rudolf Wagner-Regény was his composition teacher before he became a master-pupil of Hanns Eisler.

Matthus was not neglected in East Germany. He lead the GDR's music section of the Academy of Art (1972-1990) and his works were extensively premiered and repeat-performed.

His compositions have concentrated on two areas: opera and the concerto. Here are three works reflecting the concerto and percussion.

The 1982 Concerto for Trumpet, Timpani and Orchestra was commissioned for the centenary of the Berlin Phil. It is a work that recalls strongly the idiom of Tippett's Fourth Symphony and other related avant-garde works of the 1980s. It is in five movements and was premiered at the Berlin Phil on 18 January 1983. The defiant upward-striking gesture of Robert Hofmann's brilliant trumpet carries over into the stark and scouring Adagio and Passacaglia which, with its pattering apocalyptic tone, reminded me of Panufnik. This mood continues into the broodingly oppressive Adagio lamentoso. The Vivace is like a meeting between the rolling brilliance of the Gabrielis and the dazzling music of Peter Maxwell Davies. The brief Stretto is a splenetic virtuoso finale spitting with fury in which Michael Gärtner's timpani play a very prominent part alongside the saw-toothed sleekness of the trumpet.

The 1994 Manhattan Concerto is alive with bristling rhythmic life - a display piece of estimable brilliance. Typical of its subject matter is the knowing jazziness of the Allegro assai (tr. 7). The disconsolate melancholia of the Adagio glistens as if the mean streets had not yet dried from the rain. The Cadenza finale has the percussion section put through their timbral and rhythmic paces. Continuing the DDR connection Kurt Masur conducted the premiere in New York. Matthus has had considerable success with premieres and commissions in the USA.

Der Wald (The Forest) is a concerto for timpani and orchestra. This is a more yielding work than the Manhattan Concerto. It is demonstrative and the three movements also take on some more ambivalent moods. Particularly striking is The forest and man first movement which has budding and murmurous noises carried through horns and timps as well as rustling violins and a 'cycling' harp. There are clearly mystic dangers in this wood. In the second movement Man and the Forest rustling and squeaking violins recall The Firebird. This brings me to a realisation about these works and about the Matthus style (assuming these are representative). No matter how imposing the size of the orchestra Matthus likes to paint with Bergian delicacy rather than with massed primary colours. The second of the three movements typifies this. The finale is gripped by a long merciless assault by the timpani who thunder in Protest (the name of the movement). The timps are then joined by full orchestra, spitting and raging in sympathy with the drums. A solo violin accompanied by whisper-quiet orchestral violins provides Druidic arcana for a brief moment in time (tr. 12 6.23). In quietness the work bows out with the sense of return to the secure primeval forests.

The Saarbrücken orchestra stylishly meet the challenges of the exiguous display requirements as of course do Gärtner and Hofmann and colleagues.

Good to see the name of Günther Herbig again (Manhattan and Der Wald) after all these years. His Bruckner and Mahler were a fixture of my student years. He conducted the Bournemouth SO in Bristol's Colston Hall in the 1971-75 seasons in which conductors such as Reinhard Peters and Volker Wangenheim also appeared.

The notes are full and useful. My only quibble is that nowhere on the cover of the booklet is there any reference to Matthus - just Manhattan Concerto blazoned across a processed photo of (presumably) Manhattan. True, Matthus's name does appear in the gutter of the CD case.

This is demanding music and not just at a technical level. Matthus must be pleased. He seems to have been handsomely served by all concerned especially by Michael Gärtner whose Perc.Pro recording project this is.

Rob Barnett



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