Rachael Matthews

Rachel Matthews

.pianist .composer. teacher

pianist - composer - teacher click to see Rachel's new CD click for a list of works by Rachel Matthews click for more information about Rachel's independent studio teaching
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new chamber music by Rachel Matthews

Dreams by Rachel Matthews

Available from Centaur Records (CRC 3171), from ArkivMusic (Album ID 731957), itunes (MP3), or wherever CDs are sold.

Composer and pianist Rachel Matthews

Rachel Matthews is the winner of the 2010 International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition, the 2010 Maurice Gardner Composition Competition, and numerous grants and commissions. Her works have been heard in live performance and on radio broadcasts throughout the United States. As soloist and chamber musician, she has appeared at venues including the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, and on the Accueil Musical series in Paris, and at festivals including Banff, Taos, and others. Rachel Matthews is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and the North Carolina School of the Arts, and holds a doctorate in piano performance from the Peabody Conservatory. Her works are published by Ourtext and Comus Editions. Read Rachel's full biography.

To learn about the other artists who perform on this CD, expand "Meet the Artists".

Dreams, for viola and piano (11:06)
1. Lusingando 4:33
2. Agitato 1:51
3. Mesto 4:42

Hellen Callus, viola; Rachel Matthews, piano

Piano Quintet (23:31)
4. I 6:18
5. II 4:22
6. III 6:13
7. IV 6:27

Mikhail Shmidt, violin; Ingrid Matthews, violin;
Elizabeth Oakes, violin; Andrew Kolb, Cello;
Rachel Matthews, piano

Partita, for unaccompanied violin (20:21)
8. Fantasia 3:50
9. Air 2:45
10. Bourrée 1:58
11. Minuet 3:12
12. Sarabande 3:15
13. Gigue 5:21

Ingrid Matthews, violin

Voices of Trees,
for clarinet and piano
14. Listen through the rustling leaves 5:46
15. Night scherzo 2:20
16. Witness 5:02

Laura DeLuca, clarinet; Rachel Matthews, piano


Dreams is dedicated to British violist Helen Callus. It was named winner of the first biennial Maurice Gardner Composition Competition, sponsored by the American Viola Society, and received co-premiere performances from Helen Callus (Seattle, 2010) and Scott Slapin (at the 2010 International Viola Congress).

The opening of the first movement is perhaps more "sleep" than "dream." Rocking, hypnotic rhythms create an atmosphere of enveloping, luscious, profoundly restful sleep. Then, a gradual move into dream world - an almost imperceptible shift, a sense that sleep carries us away to other realms, through no effort or will of our own. The 2nd movement addresses the irrational/disturbing/terrifying possibility inherent in sleep, this total letting go that leaves us open to the full spectrum of the unknown. This is represented in the music by dissonant fragments; contrast between agitato outbursts and steady, frighteningly impersonal pulsing figures; contrast between sustained sound and active, moving lines; and by use of the full range of both instruments. In the 3rd movement, all of life is considered as dream. Here, it is the "collective dream" that includes cultural & historical memories, the past within the present (shadows of Bach in this movement, for example); the pain of the human condition; awareness of impermanence. The perspective that the mystery of sleep offers to our waking consciousness. The edge between dream & waking life – which is which? A rising-third motive (initiated at the beginning of the work, and "closed" at the end – and present at a deeper level in the keys of the movements themselves) unifies the piece, and reflects sleep as it opens out into its own mysterious, unknowable world... then closes back up again into waking life.

The score is available for purchase at ourtext.co.uk

Piano Quintet was written in 2007, and premiered by the Maia Quartet, with the composer at the piano, at the 2008 Iowa ArtsFest. Though the work is in four movements, there is a unified trajectory; the whole is conceived as a sort of internal journey. The work begins in a place of striving, full of effort and individual will – it is goal-oriented, seeking to accomplish. The second movement releases this energy; it comes more from a place of letting-go, surrender, allowing what will to unfold (perhaps, again, a place of sleep). The third movement, through a gradually evolving passacaglia structure, represents a sort of underground growth, the emergence of something new and unknown. Though at first murky, prickly, difficult, this slow growth perseveres; the passacaglia gives way to a free exploration of material from the first two movements, ultimately transcending both and opening out into a joyous and exuberant finale.

Partita was written for my twin sister, Baroque violinist Ingrid Matthews, on the occasion of her birthday. Her playing was one of the primary influences in this work. The other, of course, is J.S. Bach, to whose solo violin Partitas and Sonatas it is a fairly overt reference. I was brought up in a family of musicians, and life in our household was infused with the music of Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms – as well as with an attitude of reverence for these masters. Regardless of the different directions my path has taken, this music that I came to know in my formative years is music that I deeply love, and it has shaped me in all kinds of indescribable ways. Regarding Bach: I would be a different musician certainly, & I would go so far as to say a different person, without the Well-Tempered Clavier, the Goldberg Variations, & the D minor Partita. All of that was in my mind in writing this piece. But I did not set out to write "a baroque piece," nor does the "neo-Baroque" label resonate for me. Partita is very much informed by its lineage, but it is a contemporary work. The opening movement, Fantasia, is free and exploratory, opening up the landscape for what follows. The Air, with its shifting meters, is lyrical, with a simple directness; the Bourrée, Minuet and Sarabande offer echoes of those familiar Baroque dance forms in their structures and rhythmic language (though the Sarabande, in particular, points also to a very different place). The Gigue, the most substantial and virtuosic movement, explores all that has gone before and brings the piece home – the present conditioned by the past, the past very much alive within the present.

Voices of Trees was written in 2006 at the request of American clarinetist Florie Rothenberg, who premiered the work. As I began to imagine the piece, I remembered a comment I heard in my youth, to the effect that the sound of the clarinet was like "the sound of a tree singing." This description has always rung true for me, suggestive as it is of the natural, lyrical, bel canto qualities of this marvelously resonating chunk of wood – and it is these qualities of the instrument that were my inspiration for this piece.

The actual titles (for the piece as a whole and the individual movements) came after the fact. They are not intended to be taken too literally, although they do point towards the sort of pre-verbal ideas from which the music sprang. The first movement, as its title suggests, grows from a wind-through-theleaves sound world, out of which the pure, direct sound of the clarinet gradually emerges. The exhortation "Listen…" of the title suggests an orientation of still alertness and openness to what may unfold. The second movement (built around an octatonic scale, over a radically slowed-down version of the G/A piano trills from the first movement) evokes the intense energy and activity, for the most part unseen by us, within and around the (seemingly static) tree. The final movement addresses the trees in relation to human activity, and attempts a sort of laying-bare of the truth: it speaks to the collective life of trees that were here before us, have seen all, and will bear silent witness until the end.

The score is available at http://www.comusedition.com.


Composer and pianist Rachel Matthews' biography can be found here

Helen Callus has been described by critics as "One of the world's greatest violists...her playing so deeply felt that the music's message goes straight to the heart" (American Record Guide). Ms. Callus has performed around the world, collaborating with artists such as the Tokyo and Juilliard String Quartets. Her many recordings have won international critical praise and awards; of her recording of the Walton Viola Concerto with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Gramophone wrote, "Helen Callus gives the most beautiful account I have ever heard of the Walton Concerto." Ms. Callus currently serves as Professor of Viola at the University of California, Santa Barbara. www.helencallus.com

Violinist Mikhail Shmidt immigrated to the US from Russia in 1989. He is a founding member of the internationally acclaimed Seattle Chamber Players and member of the Seattle Symphony. Shmidt was a founding member of the Bridge Ensemble, and serves as frequent guest violinist of the Moscow Piano Quartet. Among the highlights of his chamber music activities have been his collaborations with such diverse and distinguished figures as Alfred Schnittke, Steve Reich, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, Giya Kancheli, Paul Schoenfield, Dmitri Sitkovetsky, Vadim Repin, and many others. He has made a number of recordings.

Violinist Ingrid Matthews is co-founder and Music Director of Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and one of today's most respected exponents of baroque violin. She won first prize in the Erwin Bodky International Competition for Early Music in 1989. She has performed in major cities around the world as chamber musician and soloist, and has served as concertmaster and guest director for orchestras such as the New York Collegium, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Of her recording of the Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach (Centaur CRC 2472/2473), American Record Guide writes, "This superb recording is my top recommendation for this music... on either modern or period instruments." http://ingridmatthews.com/

Violist Elizabeth Oakes is a founding member of the Maia Quartet, currently on the faculty at the University of Iowa. As a member of the quartet, she has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Japan, and has performed in venues including Alice Tully Hall and the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. Ms. Oakes is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory, and holds a master's degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Graduate Performance Diploma from the Peabody Conservatory. At the Juilliard School, she served as teaching assistant to Sam Rhodes of the Juilliard Quartet, and subsequently served on the chamber music faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. http://www.elizabeth-oakes.com

Cellist Andrew Kolb has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States as well as in Canada, England, Switzerland and Sweden. Committed to new music, Andrew has premiered several works as a member of Acidophilus (live culture), a new music sextet made up of young American and Scandinavian musicians. Summer festival appearances include Colorado Music Festival, Taos, Norfolk, Spoleto, Sarasota, Bach Aria, Fontana, Coos Bay, Cascade, Oregon Bach Festival, Ernen and Prussia Cove. He is currently principal cellist of the Eugene Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the Columbia Piano Trio.

Laura DeLuca, clarinet joined the Seattle Symphony in 1986, and is a co-founding member of Seattle Chamber Players, as well as an avid klezmer player. Performances with Seattle Chamber Players have taken her to festivals in China, Costa Rica, Moscow, Italy, Denmark, Estonia andWarsaw. She has commissioned and premiered works by composers such as Alissa Firsova, Jake Heggie, Paul Schoenfield and Lori Laitman. Laura has performed on dozens of recordings, and is featured on many movie soundtracks, including the solo clarinet work on the Academy Award-winning feature-length documentaries The Long Way Home and Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.

about Dreams...

"Exquisite... one of those miracles in which a new musical vision is defined..."
- Laurence Vittes, Strings 27.4 (Nov 2012): 78
    (full text available by subscription only)
- online review by Heather K. Scott, (Nov 2011)

about Rachel Matthews' performances...

"compelling mastery and artistry"
- Seattle Times
"Rachel Matthews led thrilling chamber music performances"
- Seattle Weekly
"[B]rilliant. Matthews enriched every phrase she played with a sure sense of.… style and technical finesse"
- Winston-Salem Journal

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Contemporary Chamber Music by Rachel Matthews