A "not particularly conventional" fanfare for five groups of brass and percussion opens tonight's first night of the 2001 Promenade Concerts. It is by Colin Matthews, recently appointed professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in London, and is followed by his orchestration of Benjamin Britten's Paul Bunyan overture.
Matthews has long been associated with Britten's music, having worked with the composer as an amanuensis before Britten's death in 1976. He edited and orchestrated several Britten works, and is chairman of his estate and trustee of the Britten-Pears Foundation.
Born in 1946 in Leytonstone, Matthews and his brother David (also a composer) grew up in a "not particularly musical" family. After writing - at the age of 14 - to the musicologist Deryck Cooke to point out mistakes in his completion of Mahler's unfinished Tenth Symphony, Matthews was invited to work with Cooke on revisions of the work. As an offshoot, he gained a doctorate at Sussex University with a thesis on Mahler (his first degree was in classics, at Nottingham, where he stayed on to study composition).
He taught at Sussex in the 1970s, but spent most of his adult life subsidising his composition by administrative work for the Performing Rights Society and the estates of Britten and Gustav Holst. (Last year, he added an extra movement, "Pluto", to Holst's Planets suite). He was an associate composer with the London Symphony Orchestra between 1992 and 1999 and then with the Halle Orchestra.
He is executive producer at NMC Records, which he founded in 1988 to specialise in contemporary British classical music. Matthews lives in Wandsworth and is married with three children.
He is working on commissions from the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.