Matthew Taylor: Symphonies 4 and 5, Romanza for Strings


1-3  Matthew Taylor  Symphony No.4, Op.54
4  Matthew Taylor  Romanza for Strings
5-8  Matthew Taylor  Symphony No.5, Op.59


English Symphony Orchestra
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Kenneth Woods, conductor

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Critical Response to the premiere of Symphony No. 5

“The ESO responded with playing of sustained emotional power such as carried through this movement’s plangent twin climaxes and on to its resigned coda. Not that there was any lack of commitment earlier – Kenneth Woods having set a suitably headlong tempo for the first movement as left his players unfazed, then characterising the central intermezzi with regard for their subtly different auras. A fine rendering of a piece which amply reinforces Taylor’s standing as a symphonist of stature.” Richard Whitehouse – Arcana.FM
“I regard Matthew Taylor’s new piece to be a masterwork of genuine symphonic thinking, given a performance of which any composer would have been thrilled.” Robert Matthew-Walker – Classical Source


This was special… From the onset of Taylor’s opening Allegro—by his own admission, his first essay at a “concise, vigorous sonata-like Allegro”—two things are immediately recognisable: his distinctive musical voice, rooted perhaps in Beethoven and Nielsen (amongst others) but refracted through the benign yet furioso influence of Robert Simpson (who composed his 11th Symphony for Taylor), and a totally sure sense of symphonic scale….The second and fourth movements open with threnodic themes that would not have shamed Mahler, bringing out some fine playing from the strings, plus some quicksilver wind writing (which briefly reminded me of Martinů) likewise delivered immaculately. In the finale, the opening span’s anger is transmuted most eloquently into grief. Divided into two substantial paragraphs, the first seems to have found a form of serenity, albeit shot through with a keen sense of loss, which is then blasted away by the final section which reaches its catharsis in the work’s second timpani cadenza. The close, however, is magical: a lovely, lyrical passage for the quartet of cellos followed by a single snarl from the trombones.” Guy Rickards – Musical Opinion

"With this release Taylor's standing as a major British symphonist of our time, in the tonal, northern European tradition, is further reinforced... in the second movement [of the Fourth]...the monumental tragic sweep of the first section of this Adagio, and the central climax with its inexorable pulse, immediately put one in mind of the Mahler of the 9th Symphony. The Fifth Symphony.... is a more intense, strenuous work than its predecessor. The first movement is a tense, combative sonata-(ish)-Allegro, that sounds little like the Beethoven but shares its concise, shattering impact, with enormous momentum built from cascading short motifs. It ends with an apocalyptic timpani 'cadenza'...The huge Adagio-finale - almost as long as the other movements combined - is a memorial to the composer’s mother. The Mahlerian feel of the slow movement of the 4th is equally present in the early part of this sombre music, which becomes increasingly vehement and tragic as it passes through two extended development or variation episodes on the main material of the movement. The explosive timpani solo from the first movement interrupts this precipitous descent into darkness which is replaced by a sorrowful string threnody, cut short by the leaden echo of a terrifyingly bleak brass chord." Records International
"This was my first exposure to the music of Matthew Taylor. I was impressed. Here is a composer who definitely has something to say and who communicates very effectively and directly with his audience. The music is tonal but employs dissonance to excellent effect. The music is thoroughly convincing at all times and I was struck by the assurance with which Taylor writes for the orchestra. On this evidence, he has a fine ear for texture and colour... I’m sure that the music’s cause is helped greatly by the expert performances that are turned in by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the English Symphony Orchestra. Kenneth Woods is clearly committed to Taylor’s music, as is evident from the strength of conviction in the performances and the attention to detail which allows the nuances of the scoring to come through." John Quinn, MusicWeb International

Additional information

Weight 110 g
Dimensions 142 × 125 × 10 mm
Catalogue Number

NI 6406

Release Date

November 2020



Number of Discs


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Critical Reviews

Robert Matthew-Walker – Classical Source

John Quinn, MusicWeb International

Graham Rickson – The Arts Desk

Guy Rickards – Klassisk Musikk (Norway)

Colin Anderson – Colin's Column


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