“David Matthews in the Heart of England”

Leading professional orchestras and festivals join forces to celebrate the work of a great British composer at 75


David Matthews- “John McCabe Composer-in-Association” of the ESO for 2018-9

Two of the UK’s leading professional orchestras, the Stratford-upon-Avon based Orchestra of the Swan and the Worcester-based English Symphony Orchestra, are joining forces with musicians, venues and festivals across the region to celebrate the music of leading composer, David Matthews in a year-long project “David Matthews in The Heart of England.”

The project gets underway on the 9th of May in St George’s Bristol as the English Symphony Orchestra give the premiere of Matthews’ Ninth Symphony as the second work in the orchestra’s highly-acclaimed 21st Century Symphony Project. The sold-out programme, which is part of the celebrations of the re-opening of the hall following a major renovation, also includes a performance of Donald Fraser’s acclaimed orchestration of the Elgar Piano Quintet (a 2015 Classical Music Magazine Premiere of the Year) and the Elgar Cello Concerto with BBC Young Musician of the Year winner Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Matthews’ Ninth Symphony is a thirty-minute work in five movements which grew out of a short Advent carol Matthews wrote for his wife Jenifer. The Ninth Symphony is being recorded for Nimbus.

The premiere of Matthews’ Ninth sees him also taking on the “John McCabe Composer-in-Association” chair at the ESO, succeeding Philip Sawyers, who becomes Composer Laureate.

On the 2nd of June, Matthews appears as Visiting Composer at the new Elgar Festival, Worcestershire’s newly launched official annual celebration of Britain’s greatest composer. The festival programme includes a performance of Matthews’ Sixth String Quartet and the premiere of his new quartet arrangement of Elgar’s Sospiri in an afternoon concert by violinist and ESO Leader Zoë Beyers and Friends and a performance of Matthews’ much-admired orchestration of the Elgar String Quartet by the English String Orchestra in the Festival Gala Concert at Worcester Cathedral. In between, Matthews presents the bi-annual A. T. Shaw Lecture presented by the Elgar Society and the Elgar Festival. His topic is “Elgar’s Voice.”

Throughout Autumn 2018 celebrations of Matthews in the Heart of England continue with performances and recordings by the ESO of Matthews’ Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Strings and his Variations for Strings.

In 2019, the project moves to Stratford-upon-Avon ArtsHouse and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire for concerts by the Orchestra of the Swan. On the second and third of April, the Orchestra of the Swan presents Matthews’ “Winter Remembered” for Viola and Strings in Stratford and Birmingham and on the 28th of May soprano April Fredrick joins the Orchestra of the Swan for the premiere of Matthews’ new song cycle, “Le lac” based on poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine. The ESO’s Artistic Director, Kenneth Woods, who previously served as Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra of the Swan from 2010-14, conducts all the orchestral concerts in this visionary series, “Matthews in the Midlands”.

“In an age of seemingly ever diminishing resources, working together is one way arts organisations deliver projects of greater ambition and impact, and one hopes that this alliance of orchestras, festivals, artists and venues,” says Woods. “I can’t think of a more deserving composer for a major collaborative celebration across our region than David Matthews. He is perhaps our most important living symphonist, his legacy of service to the music of Mahler is of incalculable importance, and he is one of our most important links to the legacy of Benjamin Britten.”

“Orchestra of the Swan is delighted to be collaborating with the English Symphony Orchestra and Kenneth Woods on this hugely important project celebrating the work of David Matthews,” said Orchestra of the Swan Interim Artistic Director, David Le Page. “The work of these two significant and highly-regarded orchestras represents a vital strand of the creative energy emanating from the Midlands. The project also sends out a crucial message about the importance of cooperation and common goals among those involved in arts organisations who work in close proximity. “

David Matthews says of the project, “I am absolutely delighted to become John McCabe Composer-in-Association with the ESO, to be able to continue my happy partnership with the Orchestra of the Swan, and to have one of my favourite conductors giving all these performances of the my pieces with these two wonderful orchestras. What more could a composer want?”


David Matthews in the Heart of England

For additional information or to arrange an interview

For Orchestra of the Swan

For English Symphony Orchestra

 2018 events with ESO and the Elgar Festival

 9th May 2018 at 7:30 PM
St George’s Bristol

English Symphony Orchestra
Kenneth Woods- Conductor

Elgar arr. Fraser- Piano Quintet

David Matthews- Symphony no. 9 (World Premiere)

Elgar- Cello Concerto

  • Sheku Kanneh Mason- cello

2nd June 2018 at 4 PM
Elgar Festival

Worcester Guildhall, Worcester High St, Worcester WR1 2EY
Zoë Beyers and Friends
Elgar arr. D Matthews- Sospiri (world premiere)
D. Matthews- String Quartet no. 6

Elgar- String Quartet

2nd June 2018 at 6 PM
Elgar Festival, Worcester
Abbot’s Kitchen, The Old Palace, Deansway, Worcester WR1 2JE
The Elgar Society Presents
The Bi-annual A.T. Shaw Lecture

David Matthews- speaker
“Elgar’s Voices”

2nd June 2018 at 7:30 PM

Elgar Festival, Worcester
8 College Yard, Worcester WR1 2LA

English String Orchestra
Kenneth Woods-  Conductor

Elgar- Introduction and allegro
Vaughan Williams- Oboe Concerto

  • Nicholas Daniel- oboe

Elgar arr. Fraser- Songs for Strings
Elgar arr. D. Matthews- String Quartet

 Other forthcoming ESO performances and recording of David Matthews in Autumn 2019:
Double Concerto for Violin and Viola
Variations for Strings

 2019 Events with Orchestra of the Swan

2nd April 2019 at 7:30 PM
Stratford ArtsHouse
3rd April 2019 at 2:30 PM
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Orchestra of the Swan
Kenneth Woods- Conductor

David Matthews- Winter Remembered (concert piece for viola and strings)
Additional repertoire and soloist TBC

25th May 2019 at 7:30 PM
Stratford ArtsHouse
Kenneth Woods- Conductor
April Fredrick- Soprano

Mozart- Divertimento in B-flat
D. Matthews- Le lac for soprano and chamber orchestra (World Premiere)
Schubert arr. K Woods- Der Tod und das Mädchen, Variations and Lied for Soprano and Orchestra
Mahler arr. Klaus Simon- Symphony no. 4


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