William James Mathias (1934-1992)

Episodes

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01Heading for London20170724

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's student days in Aberystwyth and London.

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's student days in Aberystwyth and London

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

From the age of five William Mathias started to compose music. By the time he was six he'd also started to learn the piano, and would become a highly accomplished pianist. Mathias was born in Whitland in South Wales, and learnt much about music not only from his mother, but also from the then newly-launched Third Programme. He went to the University of Aberystwyth to study English, French and Philosophy, but was encouraged by Ian Parrott to change to music instead. His Flute Sonatina dates from this period, as does his first Piano Concerto which Mathias performed in front of the composer Edmund Rubbra as part of his undergraduate examination. Mathias graduated from Aberystwyth with a First Class honours degree, and went to study music with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music. These lessons often took place in his tutor's home in Little Venice, where Berkeley would gently encourage Mathias to find his own musical voice rather than pursuing the avant garde.

Dance Overture, Op 16
London Symphony Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Flute Sonatina, Op 98
Kenneth Smith, flute
Paul Rhodes, piano

Piano Concerto No 1, Op 2
Mark Bebbington, piano
Ulster Orchestra
George Vass, conductor

As truly as God is our Father
Choir of St Paul's Cathedral
Andrew Lucas, organ
John Scott, director

Producer Luke Whitlock.

01Heading For London20170724

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's student days in Aberystwyth and London.

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's student days in Aberystwyth and London

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

From the age of five William Mathias started to compose music. By the time he was six he'd also started to learn the piano, and would become a highly accomplished pianist. Mathias was born in Whitland in South Wales, and learnt much about music not only from his mother, but also from the then newly-launched Third Programme. He went to the University of Aberystwyth to study English, French and Philosophy, but was encouraged by Ian Parrott to change to music instead. His Flute Sonatina dates from this period, as does his first Piano Concerto which Mathias performed in front of the composer Edmund Rubbra as part of his undergraduate examination. Mathias graduated from Aberystwyth with a First Class honours degree, and went to study music with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music. These lessons often took place in his tutor's home in Little Venice, where Berkeley would gently encourage Mathias to find his own musical voice rather than pursuing the avant garde.

Dance Overture, Op 16
London Symphony Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Flute Sonatina, Op 98
Kenneth Smith, flute
Paul Rhodes, piano

Piano Concerto No 1, Op 2
Mark Bebbington, piano
Ulster Orchestra
George Vass, conductor

As truly as God is our Father
Choir of St Paul's Cathedral
Andrew Lucas, organ
John Scott, director

Producer Luke Whitlock.

02Teaching in Bangor20170725

Donald Macleod follows Mathias's return to Wales to teach at Bangor University.

Donald Macleod follows Mathias's return to Wales to teach at Bangor University

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

After graduating from Aberystwyth, William Mathias went to study with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His own musical language was emerging at this time, including what would become regular traits - a taste for syncopation and his harmonic language. During this period of the late 1950s and early '60s, Oxford University Press began to publish music by Mathias, which they then regularly did throughout his lifetime. Mathias also met a fellow student at the RAM, Yvonne Collins, and they were married in 1959. The newlyweds soon returned to Wales where Mathias took up his first teaching post as Lecturer in Music at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. This was a busy period when, on top of teaching commitments, Mathias explored and expanded his own musical voice with works such as his Invocations for organ. As an accomplished pianist Mathias also performed in the premiere of his third Piano Concerto in 1968, alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Swansea Festival.

Improvisations for Harp, Op 10
Elinor Bennett, harp

Invocations, Op 35
John Scott, organ

Piano Concerto No 3, Op 40
Peter Katin, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
David Atherton, condcutor

There is no rose of such virtue, Op 45 No 3
Christ Church Cathedral Choir
Simon Lawford, organ
Stephen Darlington, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

02Teaching In Bangor20170725

Donald Macleod follows Mathias's return to Wales to teach at Bangor University.

Donald Macleod follows Mathias's return to Wales to teach at Bangor University

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

After graduating from Aberystwyth, William Mathias went to study with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His own musical language was emerging at this time, including what would become regular traits - a taste for syncopation and his harmonic language. During this period of the late 1950s and early '60s, Oxford University Press began to publish music by Mathias, which they then regularly did throughout his lifetime. Mathias also met a fellow student at the RAM, Yvonne Collins, and they were married in 1959. The newlyweds soon returned to Wales where Mathias took up his first teaching post as Lecturer in Music at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. This was a busy period when, on top of teaching commitments, Mathias explored and expanded his own musical voice with works such as his Invocations for organ. As an accomplished pianist Mathias also performed in the premiere of his third Piano Concerto in 1968, alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Swansea Festival.

Improvisations for Harp, Op 10
Elinor Bennett, harp

Invocations, Op 35
John Scott, organ

Piano Concerto No 3, Op 40
Peter Katin, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
David Atherton, condcutor

There is no rose of such virtue, Op 45 No 3
Christ Church Cathedral Choir
Simon Lawford, organ
Stephen Darlington, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

03Inspiration from Wales20170726

Donald Macleod surveys works from Mathias that were inspired by Wales.

Donald Macleod surveys works by William Mathias inspired by Wales

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

In 1968 William Mathias left his teaching post in Bangor and headed to Scotland to take up an appointment as Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. This was a happy period for Mathias and Yvonne, when their daughter Rhiannon was also born. However, the family would only remain in Scotland for one year, for with the illness and subsequent death of his father, Mathias and his family headed back to Wales, where he intended to become a jobbing composer. By 1970 though, a new opportunity came Mathias's way and he was appointed Professor and Head of Music at Bangor University, where he remained for many years. This return to Wales inspired a number of new works, including his Harp Concerto, which was commissioned by the Llandaff Festival and premiered by Osian Ellis. Mathias also received a number of choral commissions, including This Worlde's Joie for the Fishguard Festival and, setting words by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, he composed his dark and turbulent Ceremony after a Fire Raid premiered by The Scholars in London.

Magnificat (Jesus College Service, Op 53)
Wells Cathedral Choir
Jonathan Vaughn, organ
Matthew Owens, conductor

Harp Concerto, Op 50
Osian Ellis, harp
London Symphony Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Ceremony after a Fire Raid, Op 63
BBC National Chorus of Wales
Andrea Porter, percussion
Matt Hardy, percussion
Christopher Williams, piano
Adrian Partington, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

03Inspiration From Wales20170726

Donald Macleod surveys works from Mathias that were inspired by Wales.

Donald Macleod surveys works by William Mathias inspired by Wales

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

In 1968 William Mathias left his teaching post in Bangor and headed to Scotland to take up an appointment as Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. This was a happy period for Mathias and Yvonne, when their daughter Rhiannon was also born. However, the family would only remain in Scotland for one year, for with the illness and subsequent death of his father, Mathias and his family headed back to Wales, where he intended to become a jobbing composer. By 1970 though, a new opportunity came Mathias's way and he was appointed Professor and Head of Music at Bangor University, where he remained for many years. This return to Wales inspired a number of new works, including his Harp Concerto, which was commissioned by the Llandaff Festival and premiered by Osian Ellis. Mathias also received a number of choral commissions, including This Worlde's Joie for the Fishguard Festival and, setting words by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, he composed his dark and turbulent Ceremony after a Fire Raid premiered by The Scholars in London.

Magnificat (Jesus College Service, Op 53)
Wells Cathedral Choir
Jonathan Vaughn, organ
Matthew Owens, conductor

Harp Concerto, Op 50
Osian Ellis, harp
London Symphony Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Ceremony after a Fire Raid, Op 63
BBC National Chorus of Wales
Andrea Porter, percussion
Matt Hardy, percussion
Christopher Williams, piano
Adrian Partington, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04Juggling commitments20170727

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's busy career teaching and composing.

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's busy career teaching and composing

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

During his career William Mathias had the opportunity of writing concertos for many leading performers, including the violinist Gyorgy Pauk, organist Gillian Weir, flautist William Bennett and oboist Sarah Francis. Mathias also composed a Clarinet Concerto for Gervase de Peyer, although Mathias was so busy with other commitments that the work was a number of years late. In order to undertake all these commissions and collaborations that came his way, including writing an opera with Iris Murdoch, Mathias had a very disciplined routine which also had to include his teaching and management commitments at Bangor University. By the early 1980s Mathias composed his Lux aeterna, written in memory of his mother. It includes words from the Mass for the Dead, and was premiered at the Three Choirs Festival in 1982. Around that same period, Geraint Lewis was interviewed by Mathias for a position at Bangor, and recalled being a day late returning to the University of Oxford, due to Mathias's fondness for entertaining.

Toccata alla Danza
Nelson Harper, piano

Clarinet Concerto, Op 68
Gervase de Peyer, clarinet
New Philharmonia Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Lux aeterna, Op 88
Penelope Walker, contralto
The Bach Choir
Choristers of St. George's Chapel, Windsor
John Scott, organ
London Symphony Orchestra
David Willcocks, conductor

Vivat Regina, Op 75
Black Dyke Mills Band

Recessional, Op 96 No 4
Richard Lea, organ

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04Juggling Commitments20170727

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's busy career teaching and composing.

Donald Macleod explores Mathias's busy career teaching and composing

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

During his career William Mathias had the opportunity of writing concertos for many leading performers, including the violinist Gyorgy Pauk, organist Gillian Weir, flautist William Bennett and oboist Sarah Francis. Mathias also composed a Clarinet Concerto for Gervase de Peyer, although Mathias was so busy with other commitments that the work was a number of years late. In order to undertake all these commissions and collaborations that came his way, including writing an opera with Iris Murdoch, Mathias had a very disciplined routine which also had to include his teaching and management commitments at Bangor University. By the early 1980s Mathias composed his Lux aeterna, written in memory of his mother. It includes words from the Mass for the Dead, and was premiered at the Three Choirs Festival in 1982. Around that same period, Geraint Lewis was interviewed by Mathias for a position at Bangor, and recalled being a day late returning to the University of Oxford, due to Mathias's fondness for entertaining.

Toccata alla Danza
Nelson Harper, piano

Clarinet Concerto, Op 68
Gervase de Peyer, clarinet
New Philharmonia Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Lux aeterna, Op 88
Penelope Walker, contralto
The Bach Choir
Choristers of St. George's Chapel, Windsor
John Scott, organ
London Symphony Orchestra
David Willcocks, conductor

Vivat Regina, Op 75
Black Dyke Mills Band

Recessional, Op 96 No 4
Richard Lea, organ

Producer Luke Whitlock.

05Planning His Fourth Symphony20170728

Donald Macleod delves into Mathias's final years and plans for a fourth symphony.

Donald Macleod delves into Mathias's final years and plans for a fourth symphony

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

William Mathias composed Let the People Praise Thee, O God for the wedding of The Prince of Wales in 1981. It received its premiere during that service, which was broadcast around the world. After this event Mathias was often contacted to compose other wedding anthems for various people, but he was inclined to turn these commissions down so he could focus on what he wanted to write. By the late 1980s Mathias took early retirement from the University of Bangor, and then in 1990 he underwent surgery. He wasn't allowed to compose for a period, but then he completed his Symphony No 3 which, after his recent experiences, has a feeling of pent-up energy. Two years later Mathias died of cancer, but right up to the end he remained positive and was planning his fourth symphony, although in his final months he'd realised it would never come to fruition.

Let the People Praise Thee, O God, Op 87
The Choir of St Paul's Cathedral
Andrew Lucas, organ
John Scott, conductor

Symphony No 3
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Grant Llewellyn, conductor

Laudi, Op 62
New Philharmonia Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

05Planning His Fourth Symphony20170728

Donald Macleod delves into Mathias's final years and plans for a fourth symphony.

Donald Macleod delves into Mathias's final years and plans for a fourth symphony

Marking the 25th anniversary since the death of the Welsh composer William James Mathias, his daughter Rhiannon Mathias and friend Geraint Lewis join Donald Macleod to explore the composer's extraordinary life and music. During his career Mathias had his works regularly performed on an international stage. His orchestral score Laudi was at one point the most often performed work by any living British composer. Mathias was frequently inundated with commissions, including one to compose music for the wedding of His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales in 1981. Alongside composing, Mathias was busy teaching new talent at Bangor University, whilst also sitting as a member of the Welsh Arts Council, the British Council, and the Music Advisory Board of the BBC. During his life he was involved in the transition to full professional status of Welsh National Opera, active in the development of the then BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra, and oversaw the founding of the National Youth Choir and Youth Brass Band of Wales. He was highly active on the British musical scene, and greatly disciplined to have achieved so much during his lifetime. He died aged 57 in 1992 having composed many works including symphonies and concertos.

William Mathias composed Let the People Praise Thee, O God for the wedding of The Prince of Wales in 1981. It received its premiere during that service, which was broadcast around the world. After this event Mathias was often contacted to compose other wedding anthems for various people, but he was inclined to turn these commissions down so he could focus on what he wanted to write. By the late 1980s Mathias took early retirement from the University of Bangor, and then in 1990 he underwent surgery. He wasn't allowed to compose for a period, but then he completed his Symphony No 3 which, after his recent experiences, has a feeling of pent-up energy. Two years later Mathias died of cancer, but right up to the end he remained positive and was planning his fourth symphony, although in his final months he'd realised it would never come to fruition.

Let the People Praise Thee, O God, Op 87
The Choir of St Paul's Cathedral
Andrew Lucas, organ
John Scott, conductor

Symphony No 3
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Grant Llewellyn, conductor

Laudi, Op 62
New Philharmonia Orchestra
David Atherton, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.