“All of these works by composer David Matthews were written during his eighth decade (the Sinfonia, Op. 67, was written in the 1990s but revised in 2015), and all are receiving their world recorded premieres. Matthews only seems to have gained steam, and perhaps 70 is indeed the new 50. All of the pieces are written in a more or less tonal idiom, and they fall clearly into the tradition of Michael Tippett and the long line of composers leading up to him. Yet as one listens, one becomes aware of the large-scale symphonic thinking, especially in the Symphony No. 8, Op. 131, but in the shorter works as well; Matthews' processes are long, Mahlerian. There are fascinating programmatic effects here. Toward Sunrise, Op. 117, reflects a documentary film about the "sounds" the sun makes as its outer coronal layers vibrate; the lower instruments embody these sounds in a C-F interval. The Symphony No. 8 has a thoroughly tonal finale that somehow does not come off as neo-Romantic. Perhaps the most immediately attractive work is the title piece (which also quotes Toward Sunrise), with its wonderful herring gulls in the woodwinds in the first movement and throughout with a structure that draws on the long tradition of sea pieces without being derivative of any of them. Such material is, of course, right in the wheelhouse of the BBC Symphony and conductor Jac van Steen, and the orchestral details are never given short shrift. Signum's Mediacity studio sound is another strong plus. Perhaps those who avoid the more conservative side of British orchestral music will be less enamored of this release, but there is nothing about it that is not fresh.”
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