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William Mathias - Piano Concertos TCR016

A 1968 recording of William Mathias premiering his own Third Piano Concerto (alongside the BBC Symphony under Moshe Atzmon) is paired with Llŷr Williams’s 2014 performance of the Piano Concerto No. 2 (BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Grant Llewellyn). Mathias’s Ceremony after a Fire Raid completes the release (BBC National Chorus of Wales / Adrian Partington). 

Recordiad o 1968 o William Mathias fel unawdydd yn y perfformiad cyntaf o’i Drydydd Concerto i Biano (ochr yn ochr â Cherddorfa Symffoni’r BBC o dan Moshe Atzmon) wedi’i phario gyda pherfformiad 2014 Llŷr Williams o Piano Concerto No. 2 (Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Gymreig y BBC / Grant Llywellyn). Mae Ceremony after a Fire Raid Mathias yn cwblhau’r albwm (Corws Cenedlaethol y BBC / Adrian Partington).

Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 13
1.    i.    Molto moderato, sempre flessibile [7:54]
2.    ii.    Allegro molto vivace [3:29]    
3.    iii.    Lento molto e flessibile –  [6:17]    
4.    iv.    Allegro alla danza [6:58]
Llŷr Williams, piano  •  Grant  Llewellyn, conductor  •  BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 40
5.    i.    Allegro energico [9:05]
6.    ii.    Adagio, sempre flessibile – Vivace – Adagio [7:47]
7.    iii.    Allegro con brio  [8:14]
William Mathias, piano  •  Moshe Atzmon, conductor  •  BBC Symphony Orchestra


Ceremony after a Fire Raid, Op. 63
8.    Lento molto: Myselves  The grievers  Grieve [8:14]
9.    Andante: I know not whether Adam or Eve [7:57]
10.    Allegro moderato e maestoso: Into the organpipes and steeples [4:23]
Adrian Partington, conductor  •  Chris Williams, piano      •  Andrea Porter & Matt Hardy, percussion  •  BBC National Chorus of Wales
TOTAL 1:09:28

Tracks 1-4 recorded live at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff 7 June 2014
Tracks 5-7 recorded live at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea 15 October 1968
Tracks 8-10 recorded live at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff 15 November 2015


The Gramophone December 2017​

William Mathias didn’t seem to have much, if any, interest in working anywhere near the musical cutting edge, yet there’s something about his 1973 setting of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Ceremony After a Fire Raid’ that seems very much of its time. The chorus not only sing but whisper and chant, occasionally suggesting the indignation of a mob; piano and percussion add to the atmosphere of community ritual. I doubt, too, if Mathias ever wrote anything with a darker harmonic palette, although the clouds do part at the end for a joyous, dancing celebration that glances ahead to the Royal Wedding anthem, his best-known work. Ceremony was written for solo voices but is performed here by a large choir, and the added heft is dramatically effective, particularly in such a fervent performance.

So heartfelt thanks to Tŷ Cerdd for publishing this invaluable document. Certainly anyone with any interest in Mathias’s work should hear it.

Both of the piano concertos have been recorded before. Llŷr Williams gives an affectionate, able-fingered account of the Second – but then so does Mark Bebbington (Somm, 12/11). Both are a tad stodgy in the Scherzo but are otherwise persuasive advocates for a finely crafted, attractive score. As for the Third Concerto, it was vividly recorded by Peter Katin (the composer’s piano teacher at the RAM) in 1971 and reissued alongside the concertos for harp and clarinet in what remains the best single-disc introduction to Mathias’s orchestral music (Lyrita, 7/95). What we have here is a broadcast recording by the composer made in Swansea with the BBC SO when the work was brand new. The sound is problematic but the performance is so thrilling one can easily forgive the sonic deficiencies. Mathias was clearly a terrific pianist and drives the first movement hard, giving a gripping sense of urgency and grit. The slow movement flows more easily than in Katin’s version and the scherzo-like section at its centre bursts in with stunning ferocity. What’s most illuminating here is the way Mathias unifies the eclectic elements of his music; there’s no feeling of the episodic or patched-together. It all sounds inevitable in his hands. So heartfelt thanks to Tŷ Cerdd for publishing this invaluable document. Certainly anyone with any interest in Mathias’s work should hear it.

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