He undertook summer courses in Berlin under Georg Kulenkampff (violin) and Walter Gieseking (piano). In 1940 he graduated from the Tallinn Conservatory in violin and piano, and shortly before Estonia became part of the USSR he entered the Leningrad Conservatory, while still being Konzertmeister of several Estonian symphony orchestras.
At the outbreak of war he volunteered for the front and became a lieutenant, but being wounded severely in 1941. In 1943 he conducted for the first time, in Yaroslav, with the evacuated Estonian artistic collective. He received his first conducting prize in 1946. Matsov received the All-Union Conductors Competition's prize in 1948. By 1950 he was a regular conductor and lead conductor of Estonia Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra. He gave premiers of many works of Estonian composers, along with Stravinsky, Hindemith, Schoenberg and Webern, and went on to rise rapidly.
During the Second World War his family emigrated to Australia and his sister in Australia found out that he was still alive only by seeing news of a concert.
However, later he was criticised for scheduling the works of Mahler.
Friendship with Shostakovich
Roman Matsov collaborated with Dmitry Shostakovich to ensure the composer's music survived, but like Maria Yudina was banned from traveling abroad and spurned by official musical authorities. Three years following his death, in 2004 Gramophone noted "A home is being sought for thousands of Shostakovich manuscripts and recordings still stored in the Estonian apartment of the collection's former owner, conductor Roman Matsov".
- LP Estonian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Roman Matsov
- National Artist of the Estonian SSR (1968).
- Schmelz P Andrey Volkonsky and the Beginnings of Unofficial Music in the Soviet Union. Subscription required.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-24. Retrieved 2010-12-19.
- Soviet literature Vol 6-12 1948 Soi︠u︡z pisateleĭ SSSR., International Union of Revolutionary Writers "At the all-Union competitions for conductors a young conductor, Roman Matsov, received one of the first prizes"
- VOKS bulletin - Soviet Ministry of Culture 1955 "Many young Estonian musicians are completing their musical education at the conservatoires of Moscow and Leningrad. As an example we may cite the talented conductor, Roman Matsov, who came to Leningrad from Tallinn, before the war, "
- Nikolay Efremovich Andreyev A Moth on the Fence 2009 p254 "Another mutual friend, Irina, had emigrated with her family to Australia and was looking for her brother, a musician, Roman Matsov, whom she eventually found by contacting the Estonian Conservatoire. She had learnt that he had survived"
- Mare Lott, Aile Möldre A brief history of the Estonian book 2000 "Roman Matsov was labelled a 'homeless cosmopolitan' after a concert he had directed included Gustav Mahler's symphony."
- Matsov Archived 2012-10-24 at the Wayback Machine.