in Reviews

The Nature of Nostalgia

by Juha Torvinen

Nature is among the most common topics in music of all eras. Matthew Whittall’s nature-composing continues this tradition with strong nostalgic tones.

Musically he follows many paths, notably one beaten by John Luther Adams. Tonal sections bring to mind late-Romantic tradition from Mahler to Zimmer. Instrumentation resembles recent practices, and the plentiful use of drones, pedal-points and open intervals refers to ambient music as well as to common techniques for evoking the sense of nature in music.

Whittall’s combination of influences is unique, and composition-technically he is, without doubt, an exceptionally skilled music-maker.

Northlands is a series, an album of musical visions guided by the solo horn. The choral work ad puram annihilationem meam adopts a tad more archaic hues. Although Arctic in inspiration, the amalgamations of choir and orchestra in The Return of Light bring to mind a rainforest as well.

Whittall’s works long for a world that does not exist. They depict nature as a realm of romanticised and mystified beauty. Obviously, today’s natural environment could also evoke somewhat gloomier views. But we need fantasies and idealised models, too. 

WHITTALL: Northlands – Music by Matthew Whittall
Tommi Hyytinen, horn
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Helsinki Chamber Choir
Tapiola Sinfonietta
Cond. Nils Schweckendiek 

Alba ABCD 416