David Matthews was born in London in 1943 and started composing at the age of sixteen. He read Classics at the University of Nottingham - which has also made him an Honorary Doctor of Music - and afterwards studied composition privately with Anthony Milner. He was also much helped by the advice and encouragement of Nicholas Maw. He spent three years as an assistant to Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh in the late 1960's. To support his composing career he has done editorial work, collaborating with Deryck Cooke on the performing version of Mahler's Tenth Symphony, and orchestrations of film music. He has also written books on the music of Michael Tippett and of Benjamin Britten. He published a lecture on the relation of music to painting, Landscape into Sound, and reviews for various journals. Matthews is Music Advisor to the English Chamber Orchestra and was Artistic Director of the Deal Festival for 13 years. His music is widely played in Britain and abroad, is frequently broadcast, and over a dozen of his works are available on CD.
His musical language on the one hand grew out of his English background and his special concern for the music of Tippett, Britten and Maw; but it is also strongly connected to the central European tradition, back through Mahler and ultimately to Beethoven. Matthews has been much concerned with working in the great inherited forms of the past - symphony, string quartet, lately oratorio - and finding new ways of renewing them. To date he has written five symphonies and ten string quartets; also four symphonic poems - two of which, In the Dark Time and Chaconne, have recently been recorded by the BBC Symphony Orchestra for NMC. His numerous chamber works include commissions by the Schubert Ensemble, Nash Ensemble, Brodsky Quartet, Brindisi Quartet and many others; vocal music includes a dramatic scena, Cantiga, for soprano and orchestra, premiered at the 1988 Proms, and a large-scale Vespers for soloists, chorus and orchestra for the Huddersfield Choral Society. His recent Concerto in Azzurro (a cello concerto for Steven Isserlis and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Richard Hickox) was nominated for a BBC Radio 3 Listeners' Award in 2003. His 6th Symphony was premiered at the 2007 BBC Proms in honour of the 40th anniversary of the Cohen Trust. Two recordings of his symphonic output released in 2008 and 2009, one being shortlisted for a 2009 Gramophone Award.