Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Heading for London

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's student days in Aberystwyth and London.

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's student days in Aberystwyth and London

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

From the age of five William Mathias started to compose music. By the time he was six he'd also started to learn the piano, and would become a highly accomplished pianist. Mathias was born in Whitland in South Wales, and learnt much about music not only from his mother, but also from the then newly-launched Third Programme. He went to the University of Aberystwyth to study English, French and Philosophy, but was encouraged by Ian Parrott to change to music instead. His Flute Sonatina dates from this period, as does his first Piano Concerto which Mathias performed in front of the composer Edmund Rubbra as part of his undergraduate examination. Mathias graduated from Aberystwyth with a First Class honours degree, and went to study music with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music. These lessons often took place in his tutor's home in Little Venice, where Berkeley would gently encourage Mathias to find his own musical voice rather than pursuing the avant garde.

Dance Overture, Op 16
London Symphony Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Flute Sonatina, Op 98
Kenneth Smith, flute
Paul Rhodes, piano

Piano Concerto No 1, Op 2
Mark Bebbington, piano
Ulster Orchestra
George Vass, conductor

As truly as God is our Father
Choir of St Paul's Cathedral
Andrew Lucas, organ
John Scott, director

Producer Luke Whitlock.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 24 Jul 2017 18:30

Music Played

  • William Mathias

    A Dance Overture (Dawns agored) Op.16

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: David Atherton.
    • 1.
  • William Mathias

    Flute Sonatina

    Performer: Kenneth Smith. Performer: Paul Rhodes.
    • Divine Art: DDA21223.
    • Divine Art.
    • 1.
  • William Mathias

    Piano concerto No. 1 Op.2

    Performer: Mark Bebbington. Orchestra: Ulster Orchestra. Conductor: George Vass.
    • Somm: CD246.
    • Somm.
    • 1.
  • William Mathias

    As truly as God is our Father

    Performer: Andrew Lucas. Choir: St Paul's Cathedral Choir. Conductor: John (u.k.) Scott.
    • HYPERION : CDA 6651-9.
    • 5.


Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Johannah Smith reflects on five of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years…

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.