Matthew King (composer)

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Matthew King (born 1967) is a British composer, pianist and teacher of composition. His works include opera, piano and chamber music, choral and orchestral pieces.

Matthew King by the railroad tracks at Grable, Indiana


Matthew King's first opera, The Snow Queen, was described by one reviewer as "music of distinctive beauty with disarming theatre sense."[1] Subsequent operatic pieces include "Schoenberg in Hollywood" and "Il Pastorale, l'Urbano e il Suburbano" with words by Alasdair Middleton; the chamber opera, Das Babylon Experiment (libretto by Michael Kerstan), and "The Pied Piper" (libretto by Michael Irwin). Matthew King's instrumental works include Totentango, premiered in 2010 by the London Symphony Orchestra. Blue, a concerto for piano and chamber orchestra, was written in 2011 for the Savant pianist, Derek Paravicini and a 'Hitchcockian tone poem’ called "Velocity", for ensemble, chorus and big band, which was premiered by Aurora Orchestra in 2011.

Matthew King's piano music includes the short piano piece, "Sonatas" which takes only a minute to perform and contains a succession of 32 bars, quoting from all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in chronological order. Matthew King has also experimented with unusual combinations of instruments, sometimes located in unconventional performing environments. The King's Wood Symphony for multiple horns with percussion and an electronic score by Nye Parry was composed for performance in a forest. Described as "a site-specific symphony, one that could never sound the same way twice",[2] the work utilises the harmonic spectra of natural horns and electronically altered horn sounds calling to each other across a vast performing space. More recently Matthew King has embarked on a series of increasingly political protest pieces, including "Fix This", for piano, violin, cello, electric guitar and 2 percussionists, first performed at the Royal Northern College of Music in which theme tunes and catchphrases associated with Jimmy Savile are subjected to a brutal and surreal outpouring of musical rage.

Matthew King has composed a series of innovative community works, which endeavour to combine professional and amateur performers in a dynamic creative interaction. The community opera On London Fields (libretto by Alasdair Middleton), winner of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2005, was described by Stephen Pettitt in the Evening Standard as "unafraid of complexity, even when writing for very young performers. Some of the clashing rhythms and textural layerings are mind-boggling."[3] Other community works include the cantata "Hear our Voice" (co-written with Jonathan Dove and Odyssean Variations (premiered by British cellist Natalie Clein and an orchestra of young musicians from the London Borough of Hackney in 2008).

Matthew King is married with three children. He has presented several programmes on BBC Radio 4 and Radio 3. He teaches composition at Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Selected works[edit]

  • The Snow Queen (Chamber Opera) 1992
  • Jonah (opera/oratorio) 1996
  • Gethsemane (chamber oratorio) 1998
  • Ash on the Ground (Symphonic Variations for Avenue A) 1998
  • Love in a Life (soprano and ensemble) 2000
  • Night Phantoms and Rocking Horses (ensemble) 2000
  • Quartet 2001 (String Quartet) 2001
  • Four Places in Yorkshire (String Quartet) 2004
  • On London Fields (opera) 2004 (winner of 2005 RPS Education Award)
  • Brunel (opera project) 2004
  • Sonatas (Piano solo) 2005
  • The Darker side of Mechanical Perfection (orchestra) 2005
  • Hear our Voice (community cantata) 2006 (written in collaboration with Jonathan Dove)[1]
  • King's Wood Symphony (horns, percussion and electronics) 2007 (written in collaboration with Nye Parry and commissioned by Stour Valley Arts and Wigmore Hall
  • Odyssean Variations (cello and orchestra) 2008
  • Das Babylon Experiment (chamber opera) 2008
  • Totentango (commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra) 2009
  • Blue (piano and orchestra) 2011
  • Velocity (ensemble, big band, cellos and chorus) 2011
  • A Glass Slipper (ballet) 2012
  • Out of the Depths (chorus and orchestra) 2012
  • Cure of Souls (string quartet, piano and electronics) 2012
  • Fix This (violin, cello, electric guitar, piano and percussion) 2012
  • Schoenberg in Hollywood (SSAATTBB, flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion) 2015 (commissioned by Guildhall Vocal Dept. with words by Alasdair Middleton)
  • Ringing Changes (SATB, harp, piano and electronics) 2015 (commissioned by the University of Kent for its 50th anniversary, with words by poet Patricia Debney)
  • The Pied Piper (Chamber Opera) 2015 (commissioned by Stour Music) with libretto by Michael Irwin)
  • Il Pastorale, l'Urbano e il Suburbano (soprano, tenor and chorus, flute, violin, cello, harpsichord, theorbo, saxophone and electronics) 2015 (commissioned by the Brook Street Band, with words by Alasdair Middleton)


  1. ^ White (1 January 1996)
  2. ^ Maycock (26 June 2007)
  3. ^ Pettitt (22 November 2004)


External links[edit]