Prom Premieres

Siegfried Matthus: Der Wald; BBC SO/ Claus Peter Flor
Written in 1984 but given its UK premiere only last Thursday at the Proms, Siegfried Matthus's timpani concerto Der Wald (The Forest) made clear from the start the kind of expectations we should read into its music. From Weber to Debussy, the forest has been the romantic symbol of good and bad enchantment. Given the need to write a timpani concerto at all, what better place could there be in which to let this neglected instrument roam?

Conducted by Matthus's fellow East German, Claus Peter Flor, Der Wald left an impression of mystery not only in its chromatic half-lights, but also in its sense of missing artistic centre. True, the quiet opening for high violins and viola returned to round off the third movement in a satisfying way, and the solo part, played by Heiner Herzog, showed real independence from the orchestral discourse. A composer of opera (Glyndebourne toured his Cornet Rilke a few years back) , Matthus has been compared to Britten for the facility of his ideas. There were plenty of them in here. What the work lacked, however, was a defining moment to linger in the memory.