On 20 May Jac van Steen conducted the BBC Philharmonic at MediaCityUK, Salford in the world premiere of David Matthews’ Symphony No.10 ‘Regeneration’. The symphony’s subtitle reflects Matthews’ environmentalist sympathies and passion for the natural world. More specifically it is inspired by Charles Massy’s book Call of the Reed Warbler. Massy is an Australian farmer and his book discusses the idea of a regenerative agriculture, exploring historical and contemporary ways of relating to the land. “Massy’s book inspired me to write a piece that expresses my own fragile hope that all may not yet be lost”, Matthews writes.

Matthews’ piece is written in an unbroken 28-minute span, divided into three sections reflecting the structure of Massy’s book, which describe attitudes towards nature: ‘the organic mind’, ‘the mechanical mind’, and ‘the emergent mind’. The first section is based on historical musical forms, including a fugue and sarabande; the second is a wilder scherzo; the piece’s conclusion draws on English and Cretan folksong, as well as birdsong.

The piece was commissioned by Justin Broackes and is dedicated to Jac van Steen “in friendship and gratitude for the superb performances he has given of my orchestral music”’. Signum Classics released Jac van Steen’s recording of Matthews’ A Vision of the Sea with the BBC Philharmonic in 2021.

Symphony No.10 has been recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3. More new works from Matthews – including new pieces for oboe and piano – will be in the spotlight at both Presteigne and Three Choirs festivals this summer. Shiva Dances, a 13-minute piece for string orchestra, will receive its world premiere at the Elgar Festival in Worcester on 3 June from Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra.