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. - Juha Torvinen
Born in Canada, Matthew Whittall found his way to Finland in search of musical freedom and nature. The natural environment is a scarlet thread in his output, which includes a massive collection of piano preludes entitled Leaves of Grass after the poetry collection by Walt Whitman. His artistically oriented doctorate was on the idea of nature in Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. “Accessible without being banal” was the verdict on his musical idiom when in 2013 he received the distinguished Teosto Prize for his work Dulcissima clara sonans, based on the visions of Hildegard of Bingen.