"This engrossing recital is a defining statement in modern cello playing." Around Britten CD – Sinfini, 2013

Matthew's musical world is one of adventure, collaboration, and diversity.
One of the finest cellists of his generation, Matthew has appeared as soloist with orchestras and in recital in many great concert halls around the world, and is equally comfortable with improvisation, making music with Indian, Brazilian or Jazz musicians... or a classroom full of children.

HK Gruber Cello Concerto

April 9th, 2015

Much of my last few months, in between and during other tours, has been taken up learning a cello concerto by HK Gruber. It’s an astonishing piece. Commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation for Yo-Yo Ma in Tanglewood in 1989 it has received quite a good number of performances around the world, but not enough, in my opinion, for such a masterwork – maybe because of its quite extraordinary technical difficulties – check this video of Yo-Yo saying he really doesn’t know if he’s going to be able to play it. But it’s worth it. Gruber is a fascinating composer. He says himself that he gets bored with music if there isn’t a beat somewhere pretty much all the time, and yet the music is a long way from simple – he builds textures and piles of rhythms over driving bass lines that are nothing short of psychadelic. He was born in Vienna about 30 years after Mahler died, and you can hear that connection – to my ears it is unmistakably Viennese – maybe a 3rd Viennese School – with sumptuous harmonies, searching melodies and beautiful structure. I’ve known Nali (as Gruber is known to everyone around him) for a long time, and during an evening of good food and wine in Graffenegg in the summer of 2013, he suggested we performed the piece with his Rolls Royce – his affectionate nickname for the BBC Phil, where he is associate composer/conductor – sometime in the future. The piece has not been performed in the UK since 1995, when I played the cello in the orchestra for Raphael Wallfisch as soloist and have wanted to play it since then. When the actual invitation came through I got around to looking seriously at the score and got so scared by it that I actually wrote an email to Nali saying I couldn’t do…my finger hovered above the ‘send’ button on my computer, and something stayed my hand. I put it in drafts instead, where it lay for a couple of months until I realised it was too good a chance to turn down, and summoned up the courage and determination to learn it, thoroughly! I have loved most of the process, and hated about 10% of it, when it has seemed impossible…but for better or worse, it’s next week in the Bridgewater Hall on Friday 17th at 7.30, live on Radio 3. But if you’re anywhere near Manchester, do come to the concert, as, heard live, it will be super-exciting. It goes an octave higher than anything else I’ve ever played – my left hand is more than half way between the end of the fingerboard and the bridge – faster passage work, crazier double stopping than I’ve ever come across, and simply the most intense cadenza ever written. And it ends with a pop song (Webernised, to quote Nali) in Bb minor that you will go away whistling. Seriously, it’s catchy.

So that’s it for now, but I will be posting updates through the week as I’m so excited about playing this one.

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East Helsinki Music Institute – Perfect!

January 18th, 2015

I’ve just enjoyed an extraordinary week making music with 75 children aged 10 – 20 and 25 teachers from the remarkable East Helsinki Music Institute. Much of the skill of the children seems to be down to their wonderful teachers and in particular a method called Colourstrings that gives fantastic ear-training at the same time. It is such a great experience to work with so many children who are intelligent, focused, happy and just so musical – they were so quick to pick things up, adjusting to unannounced key changes and following changing rhythms without raising an eyebrow! We did some really good improvising, some crazy unison Indian rhythms, made up some pieces, laughed a lot, worked hard on all sorts of technical corners polishing the work they had done, and did a lovely improvised/decorated version of Scarborough Fayre. It’s a privilege to be in the company of children like this.

And to top it all they have a really amazing canteen with homemade pies and wonderful green tea. Heaven.

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A new page: Music is…

September 18th, 2014

On the left you’ll see a tab called Music is… and there you will find a whole bunch of wonderful quotes about music. Some really incredible ones: why is that so many of the world’s greatest minds (not necessarily musicians) think that music is the deepest most powerful of all the arts? These quotes illustrate that fact, and if you have any suggested additions, please send them via a comment for possible inclusion. They should be from non-musicians, preferably (although I’ve included a few from musos).

Hope you enjoy reading them.

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Kings Place with Vanessa Benelli Mosell

September 12th, 2014

Back at Kings Place tomorrow for a first recital with Vanessa Benelli Mosell, a gifted young Italian pianist I’m really looking forward to working with. The programme is a delight. After Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro (one of my all time favourite cello and piano pieces), the rest of the music is all classical compositions influenced by folk idioms from various countries: Schumann’s 5 Pieces in Folk Style reveals German folk melodies; the little known Tsintsadze from Georgia also wrote 5 Pieces in Folk Style (a commission from Danil Shafran) using fabulous Russian and Georgian folk tunes; Janacek’s Pohadka (Fairy Tale) mixes Czech and Russian styles, and Bartok’s whirling 6 Romanian Dances end the programme. Come along if you can – 3.30 in Hall One at Kings Place

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Celebrating Jon Lord

April 5th, 2014

Last night at the Royal Albert Hall there was great joy in celebrating the life and musical times of the great Jon Lord, most famous for his time as keyboard player with Deep Purple. I was very lucky to have worked with Jon, who wrote the Durham Concerto with me as one of the soloists some years ago – we played a movement of it last night. His warmth and nobility of character were something very unusual, and I was also very impressed by his knowledge of classical music and serious harmonic awareness in his music. He was a master in many ways.

But last night was also special for me on a personal note as I saw so many boyhood idols I’d seen perform in the 70s – Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Rick Wakeman, Roger Glover, Bruce Dickinson – and it took me back to my teenage days where I spent my terms going to every rock concert that came to Sheffield, and all the holidays playing with the National Youth Orchestra. Now I look back it seems pretty obvious that an adolescence like that would make a career like I have. And at the end of the evening Mark King (Level 42) came up to me and raved about my playing! I know it’s very immodest of me to write that here, but I was totally tickled pink.

Dear Jon, you enriched an awful lot of lives – none more than your dear family and friends, but also your legions of fans worldwide.

RIP

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