Colin Matthews was born in London in 1946. He read Classics at the University of Nottingham, where he studied composition with Arnold Whittall and Nicholas Maw. In the 1970s he taught at the University of Sussex, where he obtained a doctorate for his work on Mahler, an offshoot of his long collaboration with Deryck Cooke on the performing version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. During this period he also worked at Aldeburgh with Benjamin Britten, and with Imogen Holst.
In 1975 his orchestral Fourth Sonata won the Scottish National Orchestra’s Ian Whyte Award. Subsequent orchestral works include Night Music (1976), Sonata no 5 : Landscape (1977-81), and a First Cello Concerto, commissioned by the BBC for the 1984 Proms. In 1989 Cortège was given its first performance by the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House under Bernard Haitink, and Quatrain by the London Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas. This was the first of a series of LSO commissions, and Matthews was appointed Associate Composer with the LSO from 1992 – 99.
The BBC commission Broken Symmetry was first performed by its dedicatees, the BBC SO and Oliver Knussen, in 1992. It was later recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, together with the Fourth Sonata and Suns Dance; and it forms the third part of the huge choral/orchestral Renewal, commissioned by the BBC for the 50th anniversary of Radio 3 in 1996, and given the 1997 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for large-scale composition.
His ballet score Hidden Variables opened the Royal Ballet’s season in December 1999, and the large-scale ensemble piece Continuum was toured in Europe by BCMG and Simon Rattle in Autumn 2000. Colin Matthews’ chamber music includes three string quartets, two oboe quartets, the Divertimento for double string quartet (1982), and a substantial body of piano music. Between 1985 and 1994 he completed six major works for ensemble : Suns Dance for the London Sinfonietta (1985), reworked for the Royal Ballet as Pursuit, Two Part Invention (l987), The Great Journey (1981-88), Contraflow, commissioned by the London Sinfonietta for the 1992 Huddersfield Festival, and two commissions for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Hidden Variables (1989) and . . . through the glass (1994), the latter given its first performance under Simon Rattle.
Colin Matthews is active as administrator of the Holst Foundation, chair of the Britten Estate, and Music Director of the Britten-Pears Foundation. He is founder and Executive Producer of NMC Recordings, and has produced recordings for many other major labels.
Colin was awarded an OBE for his service to Music in the 2011 New Year Honours list.