Matthew Barley made an early London concerto debut playing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto in the Barbican Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra, as finalist of the LSO-Shell Competition. Since then his solo and chamber music engagements have taken him to nearly 50 countries, performing repertoire ranging from Bach to his own compositions, music written for him and improvisation. Matthew’s concerto engagements have included the Royal Scottish National (Marin Alsop), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, London Chamber Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony (Tortelier), New Zealand Symphony (Tan Dun), BBC Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony (Hazlewood), BBC Concert, Gürzenich (Markus Stenz), London Sinfonietta, Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia, Brno Philharmonic, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Zagreb Soloists, and Athens Kamerata. Recent recital appearances include the Wigmore Hall, St George’s Bristol, Seoul’s Kumho Hall, as well as the Lanaudiere, Lucerne, New Zealand, Istanbul, Krakow, Abu Dhabi, Prague Autumn, Hong Kong, City of London, Spitalfields, St Magnus in Orkney, Harrogate, Cheltenham, WOMAD and London Jazz festivals.
His Europe-wide tour with the Netherlands Dans Theatre, as on-stage soloist in Brett Dean’s cello and electronics score for Jiri Kylian’s ballet One of a Kind, took him to 5 different countries with 17 performances including London Sadler’s Wells, Montpellier Danse Festival, and The Hague’s Dans Theater.
Matthew’s passion for new music has led him to premiere works, many of them his commissions, by Detlev Glanert, Peter Wiegold, Fraser Trainer, Rand Steiger, John Metcalfe, John Woolrich, Dimitri Smirnov, Carl Vine, Katsuhiro Tsubono and Deidre Gribben.
Collaboration - whether chamber music or with different styles of music - is an enduring passion, and Matthew has worked with Matthias Goerne, Martin Frost, Viviane Hagner, Thomas Larcher, Kit Armstrong, Amjad Ali Khan, Julian Joseph, Django Bates, Talvin Singh, Jon Lord, Sultan Khan, Kathryn Tickell and Nitin Sawhney. Another passion is improvisation: he recently appeared at the Wigmore’s prestigious BBC Radio 3 lunchtime series in a programme of Bach preludes, interspersed with improvisations on his electric cello.
Matthew also masterminded and performed in a major project for violinist Viktoria Mullova, Through the Looking Glass. The project was performed in a 27-concert worldwide tour, and the recording, produced by Matthew, was released by Philips Classics in 2000. Matthew’s ongoing collaboration with star Indian sarod player Amjad Ali Khan, has resulted in duo recitals at London’s Royal Festival Hall (2000 and 2002), at the 2003 WOMAD Festivals in Adelaide (Australia), Wellington (New Zealand) and Reading (UK), at the St Denis Festival in Paris, as well as in Calcutta and Mumbai in India. They will soon be performing Amjad Ali Khan’s double concerto for Sarod and Cello with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Matthew’s first recital disc, Reminding, featuring Soviet music for cello and piano, was released on Quartz in September 2005. Previous recording projects include The Silver Swan (Black Box) and Strings Attached (Navras). The Silver Swan features repertoire ranging from plainchant to Bach, Bizet and Arvo Pärt, arranged by Matthew for multi-track cello, creating an extraordinary consort effect. Strings Attached is a collaboration with sarod players Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan. It was recorded live in concerts at London’s Festival Hall and in Calcutta, and is also available as a DVD.
Matthew’s pioneering approach to education, community music and training orchestral players is now internationally renowned. His work as a trainer of orchestral players, which focuses on the use of improvisation and interactive performance in the context of the orchestra’s outreach and education activities, has included the Philharmonia, LPO, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Melbourne and Sydney Symphonies, Tampere Philharmonic (Finland), Brussels Opera and Malaysia Philharmonic orchestras, as well as the Nyyd Ensemble in Estonia and the Sun City Ensemble in Japan. In education Matthew has led major projects all around the world with enormous success working in this area very closely with the British Council.
In 1997 Matthew founded Between the Notes, a performance and education group who work with music and other arts. BTN has been involved in major projects at the Lichfield Festival (The Titanic in 1997 and Journeys in 1998 - Journeys was also made into a documentary by the National Film and Television School), which consisted of ten days of workshops involving up to 50 teenagers, culminating in a public performance as part of the festival’s main programme. They have appeared at the Sydney Opera House, The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, London’s Royal Opera House (with the Royal Ballet), the International Symposium of Contemporary Music in Hong Kong, and on tour in Bangladesh, Cyprus (in the basketball stadium to 4000 people with 1000 performers to mark the occasion of Cyprus joining the EU), Greece, Spain, Germany, Norway, Croatia, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Belgium. The group has just led Invisible Lines, a nationwide education and performance culminating in a performance in the Royal Albert Hall at the BBC Proms, recorded live on BBC TV. Their first album, Knots (Quartz), has been released in May 2005, and the second, Extraordinary Improvisations (FMR) in June 2007
Future plans as soloist include projects with the Nederlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, The Metropole Jazz Orchestra and a return trip to the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, a residency at the prestigious new venue Kings Place in London, and a major new project with his wife, Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova.
2007 saw Matthew’s debut on television as the Music Director and presenter of BBC 2’s widely acclaimed ‘Classical Star’.
Matthew’s first disc on the Signum label, The Dance of The Three Legged Elephants, came out to critical success in 2009 (five stars for performance in BBC Music Magazine), and has just been followed by the release of Constant Filter, music for cello and electronics by John Metcalfe. The disc was recorded at home, with Matthew undertaking all the engineering, editing, and computer processing himself.