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Terrible Beauty, Op.104

Category Vocal
Composed 2006-2007
Duration (approx) 12 minutes

Medium voice, flute, clarinet, harp, string quartet

Text Author(s) Homer, William Shakespeare
Text Language English/Greek
Recording(s) Winter Passions
Publisher Faber Music

Nash Ensemble

First performance 6 March 2007
Venue Wigmore Hall, London
Orchestra / Ensemble Nash Ensemble
Conductor Lionel Friend
Soloists / Players Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano)
Review Hilary Finch, The Times, 8 March 2006

David Matthews’ Terrible Beauty for mezzo-soprano (Susan Bickley), flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet, is both more substantial and more searching. A Nash Ensemble commission with Arts Council funds, it is a beautifully wrought operatic scena. Bickley’s mezzo moved ardently between supple recitative and sensuous arioso as she gave voice to Enobarbus’s great Antony and Cleopatra. The instrumental playing seemed to echo both the light dancing metre of the Greek preface (an extract from Homer’s Iliad), and to re-create the oscillation of water and oar-strokes in a shimmering, harpgilded bacarolle.