Colin Matthews: No Man's Land

Hallé marks the centenary of the First World War with a recording of award winning work by Composer Emeritus Colin Matthews.

The main work on the recording, No Man's Land follows on from Matthews’ very positive collaboration with Christopher Reid on Alphabicycle Order, written for Hallé in 2007, and stages a dialogue between the ghosts of two dead soldiers whose corpses are strung up on the barbed wire of no man's land.



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'The most affecting of all is No Man's Land, a surreal canta featuring a First World War Sergeant and his Captain, now dead in no man's land, yet each still resonant with songs and memories. These are paradoxically made all the more vivid by a honky-tonk piano and old 78 recordings woven into the orchestral fabric to haunting effect.' Recording ***** BBC Music Magazine, January 2015

“No Man’s Land is a remarkable work that, in its passion, drama and beauty as well as its stark, satirical view of war looks unflinchingly into the face of horror. All these works receive extremely fine performance as well as first rate recordings. There are excellent notes from the composer and full English texts.”

'The music on this disc is very interesting and the performers have served Colin Matthews very well.' John Quinn,

'No Man’s Land presents the “airs and ditties” of two ghosts hanging on barbed wire – shades of Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting” – and is brought vividly to life by tenor Ian Bostridge and baritone Roderick Williams, supported by evocative backing from the Hallé Orchestra under Nicholas Collon. Aftertones, a choral work, is rather solid by comparison.' Richard Fairman, October 2014

 "This is, in effect, a double musical commemoration of the events of 100 years ago. Two extended vocal works, admittedly very different in character, one setting – for chorus – words by a war poet, and the other setting – for two soloists – a specially devised text by a poet of today, frame a much shorter choral setting of Wordsworth. (Even this last has a faint pacifist, or at any rate pacific, tinge.) The composer of all three works, Colin Matthews, points out that his concern with all aspects of the First World War goes back many years, not least since his maternal grandfather died on the Somme. Furthermore, his long association with Benjamin Britten, and the Britten estate, is bound to bring with it echoes of the War Requiem and other pieces.

                (…) Booklet notes are by the composer himself and succinct. Full texts are supplied, in English only. They are very necessary, particularly in Aftertones, where the density of texture, voices and instruments sometimes overlaid almost to excess, coupled with a slightly distant recording of the choir, means that the works are once or twice hard to capture. Overall, though, this is a most rewarding issue, well worth hearing for Matthew’s imaginative response to his chosen texts, and for the impressive responsive brought to them by the several Hallé forces in action here." Piers Burton-Page, Record Review  February 2015

"The Hallé’s association with Colin Matthews continues. Aftertones (2000) was a commission from the Huddersfield Choral Society, these ‘Three Landscapes of Edmund Blunden’ seeking to underline the poet’s mingled evocations of war and peace – ranging from the anguish of ‘Estrangment’, via the sombre equivocation of ‘Aftermath’ then affecting interlude for strings and harp, to the relative consolation in ‘Death of Childhood Beliefs’. Both choir and orchestra manage gainfully with music whose earnest sincerity does not avoid a degree of turgidity  prior to the resigned yet soulful ending.

                (…)Christopher Reid’s text takes in elements of dialogue as well as arias that incorporate songs and marches from the First World War, while extracts from recordings made a century ago add a discreet veneer of authenticity to proceedings.

                Ian Bostridge and Roderick Williams are sensitive exponents of this unlikely yet thought-provoking piece, while Nicholas Collon secures a committed response in both of the large-scale works. The composer’s own notes succinctly and informatively fill out the context." Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone January 2015

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