Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Colin Matthews collaborates with Britten

Donald Macleod surveys the influence of Mahler and Britten on Colin Matthews.

Donald Macleod surveys the influence of Mahler and Britten on Colin Matthews

Composer of the Week explores the life and music of contemporary composer Colin Matthews, through the lens of being inspired by composers and music of the past. As part of BBC Radio 3's New Year, New Music season, Colin Matthews joins Donald Macleod in studio to discuss the influences of past music upon his own works. Although he doesn't see himself as part of any musical school or tradition, he does acknowledge that for him the most important period in musical history is the first two decades of the twentieth century, and that the likes of Schoenberg, Berg, Debussy, Stravinsky, Mahler and Britten have all had an impact upon his own music.

In the early 1970s Colin Matthews had started working with Benjamin Britten, in particular helping on the vocal score for Death in Venice. After Britten had a heart operation, Matthews assisted further with the older composer's late works. Britten demonstrated what a professional composer was like, and this greatly influenced the younger collaborator. Cortege by Matthews shows possible influences of both Britten and Mahler, although the composer thinks that this is such a dark work, he still isn't sure where it came from.

The music of Mahler was an influence upon Colin Matthews from the 1960s, but in The Great Flight over two decades later, he turns to referencing music from Renaissance composer Hernando Franco in order to portray the story of the Spanish Conquistador Cabeza de Vaca. Whereas in the String Quartet No 2 from the same decade, it was the music of his former tutor from Nottingham University, Nicholas Maw, that Colin Matthews took inspiration.

Benjamin Britten Arr. Colin Matthews
A Charm of Lullabies, Op 41 (Cradle Song)
Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor

Colin Matthews
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

The Great Journey (Flight)
David Wilson-Johnson, baritone
The Nash Ensemble
Lionel Friend, conductor

String Quartet No 2
Brindisi Quartet.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Benjamin Britten

    A Charm of Lullabies, Op 41 - Cradle Song

    Singer: Dame Sarah Connolly. Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Edward Gardner.
    • Britten: Phaedra Etc..
    • Chandos.
    • 5.
  • Colin Matthews


    Orchestra: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Conductor: Riccardo Chailly.
    • Colin Matthews: Violin Concerto.
    • NMC.
    • 3.
  • Colin Matthews

    The Great Journey - Flight

    Orchestra: Nash Ensemble. Conductor: Lionel Friend. Singer: David Wilson‐Johnson.
    • Colin Matthews: The Great Journey.
    • NMC.
    • 1.
  • Colin Matthews

    String Quartet No 2

    Performer: The Brindisi String Quartet.
    • Colin Matthews - Divertimenti.
    • NMCD.
    • 11.


Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

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

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.