A new choral work, symphony, string quartet and duo for viola and piano, all by the British composer and conductor Matthew Taylor, will be performed for the first time in May and June 2017. Two of the works will premiere during Taylor’s residency at the Hertfordshire Festival of Music, where he will be ‘Featured Living Composer’ in June.
Taylor’s ‘Goddess, Excellently Bright’ will receive its world premiere on 13 May at Cadogan Hall, by the Constanza Chorus and London Mozart Players. Commissioned by the Constanza Chorus and their conductor Joanna Tomlinson, this short piece sets the glorious poem Hymn to Diana by Ben Jonson, a text that Britten also used in his Serenade for tenor, horn and strings. Jonson’s text is exuberant, life-affirming and exhilarating, qualities that Taylor matches with a flood of animated music. It is dedicated to the memory of Taylor’s oldest friend, the film and television editor James Whitehorn, who died tragically in 2006.
On 15 May, the Kensington Symphony Orchestra will give the world premiere of Taylor’s Symphony No.4, within their 60th anniversary gala at the Barbican. It is written in memory of another of Taylor’s old friends, fellow British composer John McCabe, and dedicated to his widow Monica. At around 25 minutes long, the symphony is in one large movement that falls into three spans. The first opens with a flood of energy, gaining tension until a climax that gives way to a slower, more contemplative central section. The final expanse conjures the jocular humour heard in Haydn or Prokofiev’s symphonic finales. Taylor says of the work: “Despite its tensions and upheavals, I think it is my friendliest symphony yet, and I'm thrilled that it has already secured two more performances with Surrey County Youth Orchestra and Watford Youth Orchestra later this year.”
In June 2017, Taylor will be ‘Featured Living Composer’ at Hertfordshire Festival of Music, where two further premieres of his music will be given: a viola and piano duo to be performed by Sarah-Jane Bradley and John Lenehan in the morning of Sunday 11 June, and his String Quartet No.8 by the Carducci Quartet that afternoon. The duo is a new arrangement of Taylor’s previous work for cello and piano, Fantasy Pieces.
Titled ‘Salutations and Celebrations’, String Quartet No.8’s four inner movements are transcriptions or elaborations of short pieces composed for specific occasions, including Taylor’s first wedding anniversary and the 50th birthdays of musicians Rafael and Helena Todes. The outer movements develop a single melody. In the opening Cavatina, this theme appears lyrically on all four instruments in a gradual descent. In the energetic Finale, the same melody bombs recklessly through all 12 keys, eventually establishing ‘A’ in a mood of fierce jubilation featuring very high cello writing.
Matthew Taylor’s music has been championed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Allegri and Dante Quartets, Emily Beynon, Emma Johnson, John McCabe, Martyn Brabbins, George Hurst, Richard Watkins and Raphael Wallfisch; and played in Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Russia, America and the Baltic States. He has recorded for BBC Radio 3, as well as Hyperion Records and the Dutton Epoch label. He regularly conducts premieres of other contemporary composers’ works and appears as guest conductor with orchestras including the English Chamber Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony and City of London Sinfonia.