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<<  -- 3 --  Keith Bramich    CONGRESS OF PASSIONS

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David Matthews' A Congress of Passions began life in 1994 as a commission for voice, oboe and piano from Michael Chance, Nicholas Daniel and Julius Drake. The version for string orchestra was commissioned by St Mary's in the Castle, Hastings and prepared in early 2000. Matthews learnt Greek at school and discovered the celebrated Aegean poetess Sappho, whose work survives only in those fragments quoted by other writers. A famous, descriptive and almost complete Sappho love poem (used as the central section of Matthews' cantata) is quoted by Longinus. The cantata's title comes from a comment by Longinus, describing Sappho's poem. Matthews acknowledges a certain amount of guesswork in his research for this piece -- our knowledge of the music of the ancient Greeks is somewhat limited. His material includes two Cretan folksongs and music for the askomandoura (Cretan bagpipe), and his use of the oboe (vibrant playing by Ruth Bolister) is a hint in the direction of the aulos, an early reed instrument. Matthews' music here is strong and active, usually in motion, but with an ancient, rarified and sparse feel. It's music that falls easily on the ear, and which revels in the beauty of simple sounds. Matthews' English translation (mastered expertly in the original Greek by Ruth Peel) gives a clue to why his music ends so abruptly -- Sappho's lover has failed to turn up: 'The moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the time is going by and I lie alone. I yearn and I seek.'

David Matthews on stage after the performance of his 'A Congress of Passions'. Left to right: Ruth Bolister, Ruth Peel, David Matthews and George Vass. Photo: Keith Bramich
David Matthews on stage after the performance of his 'A Congress of Passions'. Left to right: Ruth Bolister, Ruth Peel, David Matthews and George Vass. Photo: Keith Bramich

The concert ended with a slick, speedy, accurate and well-balanced performance of Vivaldi's Gloria, one of those pieces that form part of the staple diet of British choirs. It provided another chance to hear the well-blending voices of Rachel Nicholls and Ruth Peel, and it shifted the limelight back to the Finchley Choral Society, whose centenary this large and appreciative audience had gathered to celebrate. Well done Finchley!

Ladies from the Finchley Choral Society, on stage after their performance of the Vivaldi Gloria. Photo: Keith Bramich
Ladies from the Finchley Choral Society, on stage after their performance of the Vivaldi Gloria. Photo: Keith Bramich

 

Copyright © 17 November 2003 Keith Bramich, London UK

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THE FINCHLEY CHORAL SOCIETY

GEORGE VASS

CECILIA McDOWALL

DAVID MATTHEWS AT FABER MUSIC

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