David Matthews (b.1943) Four Portraits (2012)
In these four piano pieces I have tried to portray William Howard and three mutual friends - the English composer Anthony Powers, The Schubert Ensemble's Manager Ann Senior, and the Czech composer Pavel Zemek Novák. William's portrait, which comes first, is a somewhat Chopinesque slow waltz: I have always felt that William has a special insight into Chopin's music. Anthony Powers's piece is a nocturnal scherzo based on a fragment of a Welsh folksong about the cuckoo (Anthony has lived near the Welsh border for many years). The portrait of Ann Senior is also an evocation of her beautiful garden in Gloucestershire. It is prefaced by a quotation from Eliot's Burnt Norton:
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery
The bird in question is a Song Thrush, and I have included some thrush song in the piece. Lastly, Pavel Novák's piece is based on two Moravian folksongs that he sent me some years ago, and also includes a quotation from his Fourth Symphony, which he dedicated to me.
Commissioned by William Howard for his 60th birthday and for David Matthews's 70th with funds generously provided by the John S Cohen Foundation, the Fidelio Charitable Trust and the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust. World premiere given by William Howard at the 2013 Spitalfields Summer Festival