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Inspired by the worlds of nature and literature, Michael Matthews creates music that compels the listener to step beyond the everyday to dwell for a while in images of paradox, to consider the ever-changing tapestry of life. Matthews has a deep love for the contemporary symphonic tradition and has established himself as a master of large-scale musical structures, motivic relationships and organic wholeness, all of which lie at the core of symphonic thought. The symphony is, for Matthews, both a vital form and a special challenge that allows for musical ideas to be carried between movements. Compositional influences include Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Schnittke and, more recently, Scandinavian composers Pettersson and Aho.

Michael MatthewsVersatile in form and style, Matthews’ compositions include: Prelude to Macbeth – a work that captures the sense of strangeness, emotional intensity and violence that pervade the famous Shakespeare play; The Language of Water – a commission for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra that treats each musician as a solo performer resulting in imaginative diversity of contrapuntal and textural possibilities for players and listeners alike; Particles of One – Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra – a two-movement piece that opens lyrically and moves into quick, sometimes motoric rhythm; and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra consisting of five movements, the second and fourth of which are cadenzas (the first for orchestra, the second for the soloist) – this dual-cadenza structure makes a statement about the equality of the partnership between the orchestra and the piano, while providing a sense of balance around the central slow movement.

Michael Matthews’ music has been performed in countries around the world. The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra premiered the newly commissioned work The Language of Water in September 2006. In July his work The Skin of Night was premiered at the World Saxophone Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia. October 2005 saw the performance of Away, Tear Away at the prestigious Cervantino Festival in Mexico. In May of 2005 he oversaw the world premiere of his chamber opera Prince Kaspar, and also conducted the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra in the premiere of his Cello Concerto. In 2002 the world premiere recording of his Symphony No. 1 was released on TNC Records; Virko Baley conducted the Kiev Camerata Orchestra.

Michael Matthews at the Bellagio CenterMatthews has been the recipient of numerous commissions and awards; in 2000 he held a Rockefeller Foundation residency at the Bellagio Center in Italy. In the summer of 1999 he was a participant in the Composition and Computer Music Seminar of the Bartók Festival in Szombathely, Hungary. His orchestral work Two Interludes was awarded third prize in the 1997 du Maurier Arts Ltd. New Music Festival Canadian Composers Competition. In 1994 he became the first Canadian to receive a prestigious commission from the International Computer Music Association. He has also received Canada Council and Manitoba Arts Council grants, the Winnipeg Rh Institute award for interdisciplinary research, a residency at the EMS computer music studios in Stockholm, Sweden, and a prize in the Premio Musicale Cittá di Trieste, Italy for his orchestral piece The Wind Was There. He has worked at the Banff Centre, at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University and, most recently, at the Centro Mexicano para la Música y las Artes Sonoras, in Morelia, Mexico, where he worked on a piece for piano and tape commissioned for pianist Duane Cochran.

Recent performances have included:

  • String Quartet No. 4 (Mexico City –Arcano Quartet)
  • Six Poems of Novica Tadić (Mexico City – Foro Internacional de Música Neuva)
  • The Language of Water (Winnipeg – The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra)
  • String Quartet No. 3 (Winnipeg – the Molinari Quartet)
  • Away, Tear Away­ (Mexico City – Foro Internacional de Música Neuva)
  • String Quartet No. 2 (Belgrade – 14th International Review of Composers)
  • Piano Quartet (Winnipeg – GroundSwell)
  • Away, tear away (Mexico City – Mexico City Woodwind Quintet)

Recent world premiers:

  • Out in the Dark/Silva Myrtea (Winnipeg – Phoenix Collective)
  • Into Its Own Shadow (Morelia – Ensamble 3)
  • Altas Piedras (Morelia – Wendy Holdaway, Bassoon)
  • and the sky caught (Winnipeg – Trio '86)
  • Flute Concerto (Mexico City – National Symphony Orchestra)
  • The bench of shadow (Winnipeg – The Quasar Quartet)
  • Night Music (Winnipeg – John Racaru and Carol Pollard)
  • Las Blancas Sombras (Winnipeg – Charlene Pauls and Ian Hodges, GroundSwell)
  • The Language of Water (Winnipeg – Manitoba Chamber Orchestra)
  • The Skin of Night (Ljubljana – World Saxophone Congress)
  • Violin/Viola Duos (Winnipeg – Oleg and Mikhail Pokhanovski)
  • Preludes (Winnipeg – Peter Vinograde)

 

Commissions have come from such organizations as The Harrington/Loewen Duo, Meduse, the Onix Ensemble, Agassiz Music Festival and Agassiz Chamber Music Series, the Mexico City Woodwind Quintet, BIT 20 Ensemble, the Mondriaan Quartet, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, the Carlos Chavez Orchestra, the Kiev Camerata Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Hilliard Ensemble, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, the Molinari String Quartet, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Ensemble Resonance, the Thira Ensemble, Vancouver New Music Society, the Roseberry Orchestra (U.K.), Prairie Theatre Exchange, CBC Radio, Aurora Musicale, Music Inter Alia, and the Korean chapter of the International Society for Contemporary Music. Matthews has also written works for performers Therese Costes, Alejandro Escuer, Lori Freedman, Corey Hamm, Beverly Johnston, Sara Laimon, Paul Marleyn, Poul Rosenbaum, Shirley Sawatzky, Harry Sparnaay and Peter Vinograde

Matthews is a conductor, a founding member of the chamber ensemble Thira and a founder and artistic director of the GroundSwell new music series. From 2002-2004 he was Composer-in-Residence with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. Works available on CD are: Symphony No. 1 and Out of the Earth (recorded by Virko Baley and the Kiev Camerata for TNC Records); In Emptiness, Over Emptiness (recorded by Therese Costes for the CDCM series on Centaur Records); Scattered Mirrors (recorded by Shirley Sawatzky on Adventures of Piano Woman); Of Time and Sky (recorded by Peter Vinograde on Two Canadian Masterworks for Piano); Fantasy (recorded by Victor Schultz on Jeté); Songs of the Masked Dancers (recorded by Thira on Passage Through Time); The First Sea (recorded by Lori Freedman for the CDCM series on Centaur Records); and Between the Wings of the Earth (recorded by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra for BIS Records). He has lived and traveled extensively in Asia, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean. Matthews holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of North Texas, where he studied with Larry Austin. He has recently retired from a long career as Professor of composition at the University of Manitoba.

List of Commissions

2012 and the sky caught – Commissioned by Trio "86 (Manitoba Arts Council)
2011 String Quartet No. 4 – Commissioned by the Penderecki Quartet (Manitoba Arts Council)
2010 Concerto for Flute and Orchestra – Commissioned by Alejandro Escuer and the San Luis Potosi Symphony Orchestra (Manitoba Arts Council)
2009 The bench of shadow – Commissioned by the Quasar Quartet (Canada Council)
2009 Concerto for Flute and Orchestra – Commissioned by Alejandro Escuer and the San Luis Potosí Symphony Orchestra (Manitoba Arts Council)
2007 El Viento Helado – Commissioned by the Mexico City Woodwind Quintet
2007 De Reflejo a Fulgor – Commissioned by the Centro Mexicano para la Música y las Artes Sonoras
2007 Night Music – Commissioned by John Racaru
2005 The Skin of Night – Commissioned by the Harrington/Loewen Duo (Canada Council)
2005 A Star of Solitude – Commissioned by the Meduse Ensemble (Manitoba Arts Council)
2005 The Language of Water – Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (Manitoba Arts Council)
2004 Symphony No. 3 – Commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
2004 Prince Kaspar – Chamber Opera in 13 scenes
2004 Piano Quartet – Commissioned by the Agassiz Chamber Music Festival
2003 Away, Tear Away – Commissioned by the Mexico City Woodwind Quintet (Manitoba Arts Council)
2003 String Quartet No. 2 – Commissioned by the Mondriaan String Quartet
2002 Fire falls, ice falls – Commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
2002 . . . far off, toward forgetting . . – Commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
2002 Particles of One – Commissioned by the BIT20 Ensemble
2002 Prelude to Macbeth – Commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
2002 Hommage à György Kurtág – Commissioned by the Agassiz Chamber Music Festival
2002 Across the Glass – Commissioned by Therese Costes
2002 Wondering – Commissioned by the Canadian Music Centre
2001 Song Fragments – Commissioned by the Agassiz Chamber Players
2000 Las Blancas Sombras – Commissioned by Ian Hodges and Charlene Pauls (Manitoba Arts Council)
2000 Miniatures – Commissioned by the Molinari String Quartet
2000 Vertical Garden – Commissioned by Flautist Alejandro Escuer
2000 expecting/the sun – Commissioned by Ensemble Resonance (Canada Council)
2000 Concerto for Cello and Orchestra – Commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (Canada Council)
2000 The Deeper Sky – Commissioned by the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble (Manitoba Arts Council)
1999 String Quartet No. 1 – Commissioned by the Cuarteto Latinoamericano
1999 . . . of the rolling worlds – Commissioned by Harry Sparnaay
1998 Partita – Images/Fragments – Commissioned by the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society (Manitoba Arts Council)
1998 Fantasy/Nocturne – Commissioned by Corey Hamm (Canada Council)
1998 Into the Page of Night – Commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (Manitoba Arts Council)
1997 Concerto for Piano and Orchestra – Commissioned by the Carlos Chavez Orchestra of Mexico City (Canada Council)
1997 Ernst Toller: Requiem for an Idea – Written with the assistance of a Composer Development Grant (Manitoba Arts Council)
1996 Concerto for Percussion and Wind Ensemble – Commissioned by the University of Manitoba Wind Ensemble (Manitoba Arts Council)
1996 Lorca Sketches – Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
1996 Concerto Grosso – Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (Manitoba Arts Council)
1995 Deux chansons d'amour – Commissioned by the Eckhardt–Gramatté Foundation (Canada Council, Manitoba Arts Council)
1994 Symphony No. 1 – Commissioned by the Kiev Camerata Orchestra (Canada Council)
1994 Matrix – Commissioned by the John Henderson Junior High School Wind Ensemble (Manitoba Arts Council)
1993 In Emptiness, Over Emptiness – Commissioned by the International Computer Music Association
1993 Two Night Pieces – Commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble (Canada Council)
1993 Scattered Mirrors – Commissioned by pianist Shirley Sawatzky for a 1993 tour of Atlantic Canada (Manitoba Arts Council)
1992 Out of the Earth – Commissioned by Owen Underhill and the Vancouver New Music Society for their 1992-93 season (Manitoba Arts Council)
1992 Dog and Crow – A play by Michael Springate – incidental music commissioned by Prairie Theatre Exchange for the world premier production
1992 The North Revisited – Commissioned by CBC Radio as part of a special series of programs dedicated to Glenn Gould
1992 Music for Ancient Spaces – Commissioned by the St. Norbert Arts and Cultural Centre for a festival celebrating their official opening (Manitoba Arts Council)
1991 Between the Wings of the Earth – Commissioned by Simon Streatfeild and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra for their 1992-93 season (Manitoba Arts Council)
1991 Rooms of Light – Commissioned by the Winnipeg Singers (Manitoba Arts Council)
1991 The Raft – A play by Patrick Friesen – incidental music commissioned by Prairie Theatre Exchange for the world premier production
1990 Layerings – vibraphone and tape – Commissioned by percussionist Beverly Johnston (Canada Council)
1990 Four Songs of Japan – Commissioned by pianist Delores Keahey for the 1990-91 season of Ivory Echoes (Manitoba Arts Council)
1990 Three Echoes – Commissioned by the University of Manitoba Suzuki Orchestra
1990 Landscape – Commissioned by pianist Margaret Bruce and the Roseberry Orchestra (U.K.) (Manitoba Arts Council)
1990 Songs of the Masked Dancers – Commissioned by Thira for their 1989-90 season
1989 Of Time and Sky – Commissioned by Danish pianist Poul Rosenbaum (Manitoba Arts Council)
1988 The First Sea – Commissioned by bass clarinettist Lori Freedman for a performance at the Music Gallery in Toronto
1987 Wind Sketches – Commissioned by Aurora Musicale for their 10th-anniversary concert season (Manitoba Arts Council)
1987 The Far Field – Commissioned by Kazuhiro Koizumi and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for their 1987-88 season (Canada Council)
1986 Castilla – Commissioned by Music Plus (Manitoba Arts Council)
1986 Piano Trio – Commissioned by The Manitoba Trio (Manitoba Arts Council)
1985 Into a Long Moment – Commissioned by Music Inter Alia (Manitoba Arts Council)
1984 Prelude – Commissioned by the Taejon Wind Ensemble (Korea)
1984 Stone and Silence – Commissioned by the Mokwon University Orchestra (Korea)
1984 Five Poems of Walt Whitman – Commissioned by the International Society for Contemporary Music, Korea Chapter
1984 Folk Songs – Commissioned by soprano Therese Costes
1983 Elegy – Commissioned by pianist Charles Horton
1982 Mosaic – Commissioned by the chamber ensemble BL Lacerta
1981 Woman – Commissioned by filmmaker S.D. Cassidy
1979 if there are any heavens – Commissioned by soprano Therese Costes