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(b 1946 )

Colin Matthews was born in London in 1946. He read Classics at the University of Nottingham, and then studied composition there with Arnold Whittall, and at the same time with Nicholas Maw. In the 1970s he taught at the University of Sussex, where he obtained a doctorate for his work on Mahler, an offshoot of his long collaboration with Deryck Cooke on the performing version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. During this period he also worked at Aldeburgh with Benjamin Britten, and with Imogen Holst.

In 1975 his orchestral Fourth Sonata won the Scottish National Orchestra’s Ian Whyte Award. Subsequent orchestral works include the widely performed Night Music (1976), Sonata No 5: Landscape (1977–81), and a First Cello Concerto, commissioned by the BBC for the 1984 Proms: these last two have been recorded by Unicorn-Kanchana. In 1989 Cortège was given its first performance by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under Bernard Haitink, and Quatrain by the London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas. This was the first of a series of LSO commissions, followed by Machines and Dreams, for their 1991 Childhood Festival, Memorial in 1993 with Mstislav Rostropovich as conductor, and a Second Cello Concerto, for Rostropovich, in 1996. Matthews was associate composer with the LSO from 1992 until 1999. The orchestral version of Hidden Variables was a joint commission for the LSO and the New World Symphony Orchestra, who gave the American première in Miami under Michael Tilson Thomas in 1992; in the same year the Cleveland Orchestra gave the American première of Machines and Dreams. Collins Classics released a CD of Matthews’s LSO commissions in 1996 to celebrate his 50th birthday.

The BBC commission Broken Symmetry was first performed by its dedicatees, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Oliver Knussen, in March 1992, and repeated at the 1992 Proms. It was recorded in 1994, together with the Fourth Sonata and Sun’s Dance, by Deutsche Grammophon (a GRAMMY® Award nomination); and it forms the third part of the huge choral/orchestral Renewal, commissioned by the BBC for the 50th anniversary of Radio 3 in September 1996. Renewal gained the 1996 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for large-scale composition. The Dutch première of Cortège was given in December 1998 by the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly. The ballet score Hidden Variables, incorporating a new orchestral work, Unfolded Order, was commissioned by the Royal Ballet for the reopening of the Royal Opera House in December 1999.

Colin Matthews’s chamber music includes three string quartets, two oboe quartets, Divertimento for double string quartet (1982), and a substantial body of piano music. Between 1985 and 1994 he completed six major works for ensemble: Sun’s Dance for the London Sinfonietta (1985, reworked for the Royal Ballet as Pursuit), Two Part Invention (l987), The Great Journey (1981–88)—re-released on NMC—Contraflow, commissioned by the London Sinfonietta for the 1992 Huddersfield Festival, and two commissions for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Hidden Variables (1989) and through the glass (1994), the latter gave its first performance under Simon Rattle, who also conducted it in 1998 at the Proms and in Salzburg. Matthews’s music was featured at the Almeida Festival in 1988, at the Bath Festival in 1990, at Tanglewood in 1988, and in 1991, when he was visiting composer and teacher, and at the 1998 Suntory Summer Festival in Tokyo.

The year 2000 saw four major premières: Two Tributes for the London Sinfonietta; Pluto, the renewer, an addition to Holst’s The Planets, for the Hall Orchestra and Kent Nagano, already performed throughout the world from the USA and Finland to Japan and the Netherlands; Aftertones, for the Huddersfield Choral Society; and Continuum, a large-scale work for soprano and ensemble commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group for Cynthia Clarey and Simon Rattle, with performances in London, Cologne, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna and Birmingham. This was followed in 2001 by a new Horn Concerto, its first performance given in the Royal Festival Hall by Richard Watkins and the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Courtesy Faber Music

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