Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Denis Matthews!

Monday marks the 92nd birth anniversary of the British pianist Denis Matthews, who came to a sad end - he committed suicide on Christmas Day, 1988.  He was most famous for his recordings of Mozart and Beethoven, with at least eight of Mozart's concertos in his discography.  Here is the first of these, made in 1944, when he was in R.A.F. uniform:

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488
Denis Matthews with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
conducted by George Weldon
Recorded August 28, 1944
English Columbia DX 1167 through DX 1169, three 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 64.79 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 27.79 MB)

A little over a year ago, I presented several single discs of Matthews playing solo works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and John Field.  Here is another to add to that collection:

Bach: Prelude and Fugue No. 8 in E-Flat minor (Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I)
Denis Matthews, piano
Recorded April 25, 1949
English Columbia DX 1635, one 78-rpm record
Link (FLAC file, 21.54 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 9.66 MB)

According to CHARM, Matthews recorded at least five of the Bach "Well-Tempered Clavier" preludes and fugues, but only this one and the No. 1 in C were actually issued.  Matthews' Bach discography is rather meager, but it does include a fine version of the Triple Concerto in C, BWV 1064, with Edwin Fischer and Ronald Smith, from the Bach anniversary year of 1950, available on an EMI CD.

11 comments:

  1. thanks a lot!
    i remember well him accompanying to my favourite hornist, Dennis Brain in Beethoven's Horn Sonata.

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  2. Many thanks for your wonderful posts! I've spend the better part of yesterday evening downloading with extreme pleasure. One question: do you know of anyone who has a transfer of Landon Ronald/RAHO's acoustic performance of the Leonore #3? It's two records in the HMV D series. I need a recording of this performance for a personal project. Many thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Jim, I think Damian (see my list of links at the right) did a transfer of that Leonore 3 some years ago; you might try contacting him.

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  3. Denis Matthews wrote a fascinating book about the great Conductor Arturo Toscanini.

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  4. Hello Bryan,

    This is my first time to wtite. I think, he had recorded Bach's Italian concerto on Columbia. May be in LP era. But, it never come out on CD, yet.

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  5. Can't believe I didn't know about his sad end. He taught me at the RCM. I think I must have been about the worst student he ever had the misfortune to teach!

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  6. Thanks, belatedly, for this lovely Mozart concerto. I downloaded it ages ago, and then somehow it got bypassed; when I found it again I'd just been listening to the astonishing Rubinstein/Barbirolli one, and Matthews inevitably sounds a little less fleet of finger in the many runs - but that apart, I thought this was a really sympathetic & attractive recording; hard to imagine him taking time out of the RAF to record something so peaceful & uplifting! Thanks again: it (and Rubinstein) made my day!

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  7. My Father sadly deceased talked about Denis Mathews all the time

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  8. Denis Mathews recorded a delightful rendering of the Beethoven Bagatelles (opus' 33, 119 and 126) on Vanguard VRS1033. I scored the LP for a buck at a used record store.....what a bargain for this level of performance!

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  9. Denis became head of the Music department at Newcastle University in the '70s, while I was studying Physics. He took pleasure in conducting the University orchestra, in which I attempted to play the horn. So I am proud to say I have accompanied the great Denis Matthews in many a Mozart Piano Concerto.He always had a cheery disposition, so it was a very sad surprise to learn how he died.

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  10. Denis became head of the Music department at Newcastle University in the '70s, while I was studying Physics. He took pleasure in conducting the University orchestra, in which I attempted to play the horn. So I am proud to say I have accompanied the great Denis Matthews in many a Mozart Piano Concerto.He always had a cheery disposition, so it was a very sad surprise to learn how he died.

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