A frequent collaborator with both the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Jac van Steen, David Matthews’ new recording explores both the natural world and the symphonic idea, the second of which has, in his words, “obsessed me since I started composing at the age of 16”.
As well the Sinfonia and Symphony No. 8, the programme includes Toward Sunrise; inspired by the sound of the sun (a rising fourth of C-F), as recorded by scientists at Sheffield University, and A Vision of the Sea; drawn from the sights and sounds of English Channel near the composers’ home in Deal, Kent .
With a singular body of work spanning almost 60 years, David Matthews has established an international reputation as one of the leading symphonists of our time. Born in London in 1943, he began composing at the age of sixteen. He read Classics at the University of Nottingham – where he has more recently been made an Honorary Doctor of Music – and afterwards studied composition privately with Anthony Milner. He was also helped by the advice and encouragement of Nicholas Maw and spent three years as an assistant to Benjamin Britten in the late 1960s. In the 1970s a friendship with the Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe (leading to collaboration and numerous trips to Sydney) helped Matthews find his own distinctive voice.
The BBC Philharmonic, known for its innovative and versatile music-making, has its home in Salford and enjoys worldwide recognition. Driven by a commitment to make the orchestral experience accessible to all, its adventurous approach to programming places new and neglected music in the context of the established classical canon.
As one of the BBC’s six Orchestras and Choirs the orchestra performs over 100 concerts a year for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and, with a purpose-built studio in BBC North’s MediaCityUK home in Salford Quays, the orchestra welcomes over 5,000 people every year to its free studio concerts. In addition to some of the finest classical musicians and conductors, other artists to have joined the BBC Philharmonic in the studio include John Grant, Boy George and leading dubstep trio, Nero, for a performance of Dubstep Symphony with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe and MistaJam. The orchestra’s passion for bringing classical music to new audiences has seen collaborations with Clean Bandit, The 1975, Jarvis Cocker, Will Young, The Courteeners, Rag'n'Bone Man, Elbow and The xx.
The orchestra also uses the studio to record for CD/download and has delivered over 250 recordings, selling close to one million albums.
Performing across the North of England and beyond - with regular concerts in Leeds, Hanley, Kendal, Hull, Sheffield, Blackburn, Carlisle and Nottingham - the orchestra is resident each year at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and appears annually at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. Internationally-renowned, the BBC Philharmonic also tours Europe and Asia, has performed in America and China and was touring Japan during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
With strong roots in the city of Manchester, the orchestra can trace its origins back to 1921. Known as the BBC Northern Orchestra from 1934, it became the ‘BBC Philharmonic’ in 1982 shortly after a move to Manchester’s Oxford Road, before relocating to MediaCityUK, Salford in 2011. To celebrate the move, the orchestra held a 17-day festival, Philharmonic Presents, broadcasting concerts on each of the BBC’s seven national radio stations.
Juanjo Mena has been Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic from 2011 to 2018 and will return to perform with the orchestra in future seasons. John Storgårds, the BBC Philharmonic’s Chief Guest Conductor, continues to bring a wide repertoire with a focus on Scandinavian works to the orchestra. In 2017 Ben Gernon was the youngest conductor to be given a title with a BBC Orchestra, becoming Principal Guest Conductor. Former BBC Young Musician of the Year Mark Simpson is the orchestra’s Composer in Association. Taking up the position in 2015, aged 26, he became one of the youngest ever composers to be given a formal role with a major British orchestra.
Embracing new technology, the orchestra launched Philharmonic Lab in May 2018 in partnership with BBC Research and Development to explore and develop new ways for audiences to experience orchestral music. The BBC Philharmonic will be inviting audiences to keep their mobile phones on to access live programme notes synchronised with the performance in a bold move to reimagine the orchestral experience.