April 17, 2018
David Matthews
David Matthews
Clive Barda

Two of the Midlands’ foremost orchestras, the Worcester-based English Symphony Orchestra (ESO) and the Stratford-upon-Avon based Orchestra of the Swan (OOTS), join forces in 2018 and 2019 for “David Matthews in The Heart of England”, a year-long celebration bringing together musicians, venues and festivals to commemorate the distinguished English composer’s 75th birthday.

The inaugural event takes place on 9 May 2018 at St. George’s Bristol, when the ESO and Artistic Director Kenneth Woods premiere Matthews’ Symphony No. 9 as the second instalment in the orchestra’s celebrated 21st Century Symphony Project. The sold-out concert, which comprises part of the venue’s re-opening festivities following a major renovation, also includes Donald Fraser’s acclaimed orchestration of Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet (a 2016 Classical Music Magazine Premiere of the Year) and Elgar’s Cello Concerto with BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Matthews’ Ninth Symphony is a thirty-minute work in five movements which grew out of a short Advent carol that he wrote for his wife Jenifer. Coinciding with the performance, Woods and the ESO will make a studio recording of Matthews' Ninth Symphony for Nimbus Records. The occasion also sees Matthews taking on the “John McCabe Composer-in-Association” chair at the ESO, succeeding Philip Sawyers who becomes Composer Laureate.

On 2 June 2018, Matthews appears as Visiting Composer at the Elgar Festival, Worcestershire’s newly launched annual celebration of the great English composer. The festival programme includes a performance of Matthews’ String Quartet No. 6 and the premiere of his new quartet arrangement of Elgar’s Sospiri in an afternoon concert by violinist and ESO Leader Zoë Beyers and Friends. An evening concert will feature Matthews’ much-admired orchestration of Elgar’s String Quartet performed by Woods the English String Orchestra in the Festival Gala Concert at Worcester Cathedral. In between, Matthews presents the bi-annual A. T. Shaw Lecture presented by the Elgar Society and the Elgar Festival. His topic is “Elgar’s Voice,” in which he will explore two aspects of Elgar’s very distinct voice – the public voice and the private voice. Among the works Matthews will discuss are In the South, Falstaff, the String Quartet (including his arrangement for strings as well as the original), and Sospiri, one of the most private of all of Elgar’s works.

Throughout the autumn of 2018, celebrations of “David Matthews in the Heart of England” continue with performances and recordings by the ESO of Matthews’ Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Strings and his Variations for Strings.

In 2019, the project moves to Stratford-upon-Avon’s ArtsHouse and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire for concerts by the Orchestra of the Swan. On 2 and 3 April 2019, OOTS presents Matthews’ Winter Remembered for viola and strings in Stratford and Birmingham, and on 28 May 2019 soprano April Fredrick joins the orchestra for the premiere of Matthews’ new song cycle, “Le lac” based on poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine. Kenneth Woods, who previously served as Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra of the Swan from 2010-14, conducts all the orchestral concerts in this series, “Matthews in the Midlands”.

“In an age of seemingly ever-diminishing resources, working together is one way that arts organisations can deliver projects of greater ambition and impact, and one hopes that this alliance of orchestras, festivals, artists and venues will leave a lasting impression,” comments Woods. “I can’t think of a more deserving composer for a major collaborative celebration across our region than David Matthews. He is perhaps our most important living symphonist, his legacy of service to the music of Mahler is of incalculable importance, and he is one of our most important links to the legacy of Benjamin Britten.”

“Orchestra of the Swan is delighted to be collaborating with the English Symphony Orchestra and Kenneth Woods on this hugely important project celebrating the work of David Matthews,” said Orchestra of the Swan Interim Artistic Director, David Le Page. “The work of these two significant and highly-regarded orchestras represents a vital strand of the creative energy emanating from the Midlands. The project also sends out a crucial message about the importance of cooperation and common goals among those involved in arts organisations that work in close proximity. “

David Matthews says of the project, “I am absolutely delighted to become ‘John McCabe Composer-in-Association’ with the ESO, to be able to continue my happy partnership with the Orchestra of the Swan, and to have one of my favourite conductors giving all these performances of the my pieces with these two wonderful orchestras. What more could a composer want?”

For media enquiries, interview and image requests, please contact:

For English Symphony Orchestra – Ashley Westmacott, ashley.westmacott@eso.co.uk, + 44 (0)7587 146303

For Orchestra of the Swan – Paolo Pezzangora, marketing@orchestraoftheswan.org, +44 (0) 1789 267567

For Kenneth Woods – Melanne Mueller, melanne@musiccointernational.com, +44 (0) 7788 662 461 or +1 917 907 2785

* * * * *


Wednesday, 9 May 2018 – 7:30 pm
Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) arr. Donald Fraser Piano Quintet
David Matthews (b. 1943) Symphony No. 9 (world premiere)
Elgar Cello Concerto
     Sheku Kanneh-Mason cello
English Symphony Orchestra
Kenneth Woods conductor

St. George’s Bristol
Great George Street (off Park Street)
Bristol BS1 5RR
Tickets £5, £15, £25, £30, £35, £40 https://www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk/


Saturday, 2 June 2018 – 4:00 pm
Zoë Beyers and Friends
Elgar arr. D. Matthews Sospiri (world premiere)
D. Matthews String Quartet No. 6
Elgar String Quartet

Worcester Guildhall
High Street
Worcester WR1 2EY
Tickets £10

Saturday, 2 June 2018 – 6:00 pm
The Elgar Society Presents The Bi-Annual A.T. Shaw Lecture
“Elgar’s Voices”
David Matthews speaker

Abbot’s Kitchen
The Old Palace
Worcester WR1 2JE
Free to ticket holders of 2 June Worcester Cathedral concert (see below) and members of the Elgar Society

Saturday, 2 June 2018 – 7:30 pm
Festival Gala Concert
Elgar Introduction and Allegro
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958) Oboe Concerto
     Nicholas Daniel oboe
Elgar arr. Fraser Songs for Strings
Elgar arr. D. Matthews String Quartet
English String Orchestra
Kenneth Woods conductor

Worcester Cathedral
8 College Yard
Worcester WR1 2LA
Tickets £10 - £22; 10% discount for ESO Friends and members of the Elgar Society


Tuesday, 2 April 2019 – 7:30 pm
Stratford ArtsHouse
14 Rother Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon CV37 6LU
Wednesday, 3 April 2019 – 2:30 pm 
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Paradise Place, Birmingham B3 3HG
D. Matthews Winter Remembered for viola and strings
Additional repertoire and soloist TBC
Orchestra of the Swan
Kenneth Woods conductor

Saturday, 25 May 2019 – 7:30 pm
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 91) Divertimento in B-flat
D. Matthews “Le lac” for soprano and chamber orchestra (world premiere)
Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) arr. Kenneth Woods Der Tod und das Mädchen, variations and lied for soprano and orchestra
     April Fredrick soprano
Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) arr. Klaus Simon Symphony No. 4
Orchestra of the Swan
Kenneth Woods conductor

Stratford ArtsHouse
14 Rother Street
Stratford-Upon-Avon CV37 6LU

Related Link
Back to List
Back to Top