…through the glass
In writing this programme note – on the day, two months before the first performance, that …through the glass has been finished – I’m at a loss to know how to do more than let the music speak for itself. One of the joys, for me, of writing music is that it’s possible to avoid being specific, to indulge in ambiguity; and so to pin it down with words seems inappropriate. I can explain that the title of this piece derives from the last three words of a poem by Edmund Blunden; but to quote the whole of that poem (a dark and sinister one) would be thoroughly misleading. Besides the title only came, as titles tend to, half way through the composition. But pursuing that analogy is more likely to obscure the piece than elucidate it, and a brief description of the music may be more helpful, even if it goes no further in ‘explaining’ it.
…through the glass was composed between March and September 1994, and lasts around sixteen minutes in a single span of music, mostly slow. The opening is fiercely monodic (a single-line melody), music which recurs in this form only once, after a series of refrain-like episodes, the last of which is a hushed ‘chorale’ for muted strings (more like a distant song than a chorale). A central fast section fleetingly alludes to all the earlier material, before a recapitulation of the refrains leads to an apotheosis of the ‘chorale’ in an extended coda. …through the glass is dedicated to Sally Cavender.
…through the glass has a brooding feel; the dark textures are rich, and the artful instrumental doublings suggest a far bigger band than the scoring for 16 players. Like Hidden Variables, Matthews’ previous BCMG commission, it should be taken up by a variety of similar ensembles
First performed by BCMG conducted by Simon Rattle at the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham on 20 November 1994.