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.
Versatile 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. GroundSwell and the Brandon Chamber players recently premiered his new work Six Poems of Novica Tadić. 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. Upcoming performances include premieres in Montreal, Italy, Mexico, and the United States.
Matthews 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 numerous 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.
Matthews is a conductor 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