David Matthews (1943)

Capriccio 1991

2 horns - strings (44322 or 44331 or 43221)

Commissioned by the Philharmonia with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain, this piece was written in early 1991 for a concert to mark the 70th anniversary of Dennis Brain’s birth. Before I began it I listened to a number of his recordings, and the quality of his playing that most struck me was its spontaneous exuberance. I have tried to capture some of this exuberance in my Capriccio, whose title was suggested by its form - a sequence of free variations, mostly in fast tempi - as well as its content. It was only after I had finished the piece that a friend told me that Dennis Brain had been on his way to record the final scene of Strauss’s Capriccio (with its famous horn solo) when he was killed (in a car crash), which makes the title still more apt. The 36 Ds on the first horn at the end of the piece commemorate Dennis Brain’s age when he died. Of the two horn parts, the first plays a concertante role throughout, while the second is mostly a bass part, though it joins the first in a cadenza which exploits most of the notes in the horn’s harmonic series. The string writing is mostly soloistic; the piece was conceived more as large chamber music than for orchestra.

David Matthews

20.5.91, Wigmore Hall, London: Philharmonia Orchestra/Norman del Mar
January 1992, US tour: Barry Tuckwell / Northern Sinfonia
26.7.92 RNCM, Manchester: Richard Watkins / Goldberg Ensemble / Malcolm Layfield
May 1995 UK tour: European Community Chamber Orchestra
21.7.95 Deal Festival: Britten Sinfonia/Nicholas Cleobury
16.10.99 Luton: Britten Sinfonia/Nicholas Cleobury
24.10.99 Chelmsford: Britten Sinfonia/Nicholas Cleobury
15.11.02 Royal College of Music, London: Michael Thompson / RCM Orchestra
23.8.08 Presteigne Festival: Presteigne Festival Orchestra / George Vass
2.10.08 Rovaniemi, Finland: Lapland Chamber Orchestra / John Storgards