Matthus: Der Wald
(percussion concerto)

world première Dresden, June 6, 1985

Siegfried Matthus is a composer notable for the broad spectrum of his musical output. Apart from writing works for the stage he has given special attention to pieces for solo voices and instruments over the past twenty years or so. Unusual combinations are an intriguing feature, e. g. the Concerto for Drums and Orchestra “Der Wald” (“The Forest”) dating from 1984. Commissioned by the Dresden Staatskapelle, it was intended for the orchestra’s principal timpanist, Peter Sondermann. As the title of the concerto indicates, this is a musical discourse on our dying forests – a taboo subject in what was the GDR. By way of introduction the score contains a passage from Hölderlin’s “Hyperion”: “O tree of life, if only I could turn green with you again and share the fragrance of your canopy and all your budding twigs, peaceably and fervently, for we all have grown out of the same golden seed.” The concerto comprises three movements played without a break, the orchestra consisting only of brass, harp and strings. The relationship between the soloist and the various orchestral sections is marked by “growing mutual affection” rather than “adversity”. The first movement, proceeding largely at a gentle, unhurried pace, recalls a romantic forest in its evocative texture. In the second movement, images of its destruction in modern times call forth expressions of grief and mourning. This contrasts sharply with the mood of the final movement in which the soloist moves into action in a forceful cadenza. The whole orchestra rallies behind him in the furious finale which ends on a note of passionate resolve and protest.
(Frank Schneider, 1991)

Karl Mehlig, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Conductor: Kurt Masur
CD Magna AV 21 00 238
Mark Petarski, Leningrader Philharmoniker, Conductor: Alexander Dimitrijew
CD col legno AU 31806-6 (3. Internationales Musik-Festival Leningrad 1988)
Michael Gärtner (kettle-drums), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, Conductor: Günther Herbig
CD 40012004