MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

ARTICLE Plain text for smartphones & printers

An occasional series by Christopher Howell
17. DENIS MATTHEWS (1919-1988)

All articles in this series

From time to time my mother who, now in her ninetieth year, tends to remember the distant past more than recent events, asks me if I know what happened to a brilliant young pianist she remembers seeing in the years just after the war. “Such a handsome young man in his RAF uniform and he always played beautifully”. Those were the innocent days when every lass still loved a uniform – a full brace of piercings and tattoos would be more to the point today. The pianist she meant was Denis Matthews. I have to confess, though, that I took my mother’s estimate of his brilliance with a pinch of salt. The name of Denis Matthews was well known to me, of course. But to me, and I suspect to most people whose musical awakenings took place in the later 1960s and the 1970s, Denis Matthews was fundamentally a broadcasting personality who had some kind of career as a concert pianist more in the past than in the present. The not very numerous records that might have opened my eyes to his early promise were, almost without exception, long unavailable when I started buying LPs. It is only recently that I became aware that there exists sufficient – just about – recorded evidence to prove that, back in the 1940s, he had more than his RAF uniform to win the musical hearts of young ladies.

Personal memories
It seemed right to begin from my mother’s end of the story, because my own impressions of Denis Matthews were more ambivalent. During my years at Edinburgh University, Matthews came to play Beethoven’s First Concerto with the Reid Orchestra, conducted by Prof. Michael Tilmouth. The afternoon before, he held a masterclass for those of the Music Faculty students who wished to bring a piece along. In general, I don’t think it was found a particularly useful experience. One student even described him as “avuncular and burbling”. No doubt I would have paid less heed to the phrase if I had not been hopelessly besotted with the young lady who pronounced it. All the same, by any meter of judgement, the tone he adopted was not a happy one.

The proceedings opened with a young oriental student playing the first movement of “Les Adieux” with great vitality, but with an unfortunate memory slip that delivered her to a different part of the movement. It can happen to anyone. Matthews stopped her sympathetically and then launched into a “sonata form made easy” explanation of expositions and recapitulations that avoided actually naming these technical terms. On BBC’s “Woman’s Hour” – at which Matthews was a frequent guest – this would doubtless have been smiled upon benignly. This was a Music Faculty, though. We might have been a lousy shower of pianists, but analysing sonatas into expositions and recapitulations was something we all knew how to do.

My turn came. I had chosen a Haydn Sonata. I didn’t mean any harm. I was using the Vienna Urtext Edition and it said it was no. 50. So, in my innocence, I communicated to the organizers of the event that I was playing no. 50 in D. If we’d had Internet back then, I could have Googled and discovered that Matthews had a long-running conviction about the numbering of Haydn Sonatas. Whenever he broadcast one, he always had the number accompanied by some such phrase as “The sonatas are numbered according to the Breitkopf collected edition of Haydn’s works”. If I’d seen that and announced that I was playing Sonata no. 37, ten minutes would have been saved for other things. As it was, I apparently passed for some sort of revolutionary who wanted to steal his birthright by renumbering the Haydn Sonatas. For what it’s worth, the numbering normally used today is that of the Vienna Urtext.

Another thing I did which, to judge from the recent Bavouzet recordings, would shock nobody today, was to add a little cadenza where Haydn left an empty space in the first movement, and to decorate the repeat in the slow movement. Matthews’s comment was that “What you did was creative, but I’m not sure this is the right place for it”. When a suave Englishman begins a phrase “I’m not sure if …”, what he really means is “I’m bloody sure it isn’t”. Still, no doubt my decorations were far less expertly done than those of Bavouzet today.

What happened at the end can only be described as an immature gag on my part. The last section of the sonata is marked to be played twice. I played it three times and, having taken a rather sedate tempo thus far, I played it faster each time. Matthews was sitting behind me, but my colleagues vividly described the way his eyebrows hit the top of his head. He then turned towards Colin Kingsley, our teacher – and a very fine pianist himself – with a stern look as if to say “Is this what you teach them?” Colin Kingsley shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, vigorously disclaiming all responsibility. I forget what Matthews actually said at the end, but the gist of it was to get off the platform, “old chap”, and give other people a chance to play.

It is right to say at this point that many present-day pianists, and in particular Sarah Beth Briggs, have expressed their gratitude for Matthews’s teaching. Very probably I would be among them if had had studied with him for a year or two – one-off master classes are dubious affairs at best. None of us felt the occasion had been particularly beneficial.

Nor were any of us much impressed by the performance of Beethoven’s First Concerto he gave the following evening. It was solid, almost mechanical, with a hard, unattractive tone. This latter was strange, because when he sat down to demonstrate passages spontaneously during the master class, his tone was lovely. Various stories circulated. One of the music students had Newcastle connections – Matthews was Professor of Music at the University there – and had heard that Matthews had been compelled recently to re-finger his repertoire because his third finger had grown too podgy to fit easily between two black keys. Unkind hearsay? Possibly not. The film I discuss below shows that Matthews’s fingers even in his heyday were on the podgy side for a smallish, slim young man. In late middle age, the dashing young man my mother had so much admired was, not exactly fat but certainly well-fed. So the story is plausible. Another student remembered that Matthews had been booked to do a Beethoven Concerto with a local orchestra during the Beethoven year, 1970. Instead, he had communicated at short notice that he felt he nothing to offer for the Beethoven year, and replaced the scheduled piece with Tchaikovsky’s First Concerto, which he did not play well.

I’ve set all this down to show that the tail end of Matthews’s career was not so happy. Always a suave talker, his performances often disappointed. The substitution of Beethoven with Tchaikovsky in the Beethoven year shows that he sometimes did some odd things, too.

A few years earlier – I’d say around 1967 – I caught him on better form. Even so, it’s the talking I remember rather than the playing. The Ashford Music Society (Kent) regularly held its concerts in the Girls’ High School. A new hall had been built and Denis Matthews came with the violinist Ralph Holmes to give the inaugural concert there. From one point of view, he was the ideal person for the job. “… The first thing I said to Mr. Holmes when we arrived this afternoon was, ‘What a lovely hall’, and I do congratulate you all …”. I have no recollection of what they played except for the inclusion of the Stravinsky Duo Concertante, and it’s again the small-talk that makes me remember it. One of the movements is a Dithyramb, and Matthews turned to Ralph Holmes speculatively.
DM: “We found out what a dithyramb was, didn’t we? What was it exactly?”
RH: “A hymn in praise of …. (slight pause) … a hymn in praise”.
DM: “You see, we had a little time after we’d finished rehearsing, so we went into your excellent library and your very helpful staff brought us a dictionary …”
All blarney, I daresay, I don’t really believe the two of them went to perform a dithyramb without knowing what it was. The audience loved it, but I wonder how many of them, like me, took away the memory of the chit-chat and forgot the performances, excellent though they doubtless were.

For the rest, I have various memories of Matthews on radio and television, discussing Beethoven’s sketchbooks and presenting one of the first of a series of terrible phone-in record-choice programmes that marked the demise of the “high-brow” BBC Third programme and its substitution with “Radio 3”.

So was the impression I got of Matthews as a suave, if knowledgeable, talker on music and enough of a pianist to illustrate his points himself, a fair one? Maybe it was, by the 1970s, but it was not ever thus. So now let’s have a proper look at his career and his small recorded legacy.

A few biographical notes
My principal source for these brief biographical notes is a site dedicated to Leamington Spa, where Matthews spent most of his earlier years. Denis James Matthews was actually born in Coventry on 27 February 1919, but he attended kindergarten in Leamington Spa at the age of five and remained there till he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music in 1935. His father, Arthur Matthews, had been a Flying Officer Observer in the Great War, but was shot down and invalided out with an amputated leg. He set up a small engineering works but remained deeply frustrated at his inability to support his family as he would have wished. He committed suicide in 1931.

Matthews’s thirteenth year was marked by life-changing tragedy, but it had begun full of promise. On his twelfth birthday, his mother took him to hear Wilhelm Furtwängler conduct the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra at the Birmingham Town Hall. From this point onwards, music was to dominate his life.

Matthews’s mother played the piano herself and gave her son what encouragement she could. Her husband’s death had left the family in financially straitened circumstances, but Denis took lessons from various local teachers. After winning a prize at a Leamington Musical Festival, Herbert Howells, one of the judges, felt he should consider a career in music. In 1935 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. Various local bodies lent their support and he was lucky, once in London, to encounter the generosity of the Craxton family. Harold Craxton was the established piano professor at the RAM and Matthews’s own tutor. As I have described in the article in this series on Craxton, Harold and his wife Essie kept open house – a large house, fortunately – to innumerable students. Denis Matthews stayed with them throughout his Academy years.

Matthews was soon picking up occasional fees accompanying singers. Some of these recitals were broadcast – BBC Radio Times archives (see Appendix) list a ballad concert in 1936 and another two in 1937. He received the princely sum of two guineas for each of these but found the publicity useful. According to the Leamington Spa site, he played Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto at a Promenade Concert in June 1938 with Sir Henry Wood conducting. Unfortunately, the BBC Proms Archive shows that the Proms were not running in June 1938. This does not rule out the possibility that he played the Concerto with Wood in that year, albeit not at the Proms. He certainly appeared at the Proms on 16 August 1939, with Wood conducting. He played Bach’s 4-Piano Concerto, the other pianists being Iris Loveridge, Ross Pratt and Susan Suvko. The following season, on 2 October 1940, he appeared again in the same work, once more with Sir Henry Wood and Iris Loveridge, but with Jean Gilbert and Frank Thomas as the other pianists. Matthews also made an early impression as a composer. On 26 May 1940 his Five Sketches for violin and piano were broadcast by Isolde Menges and Howard Ferguson.

By May 1940, Matthews was enrolled in the Royal Air Force. After a spot of basic training, he spent most of his military career as a member of the RAF Orchestra. In July 1945, the Government sent the orchestra to Potsdam to provide entertainment during the final banquet between Churchill, Truman and Stalin. Truman surprised Matthews by politely requesting the piano stool and sitting down to play Mozart.

By the end of the war, Matthews already had a number of recordings to his credit. From then to the early 1960s he had a busy concert career with a burgeoning reputation, though one mainly confined to Great Britain. A brief bio in the Radio Times of 10 May 1953 listed his recreations as including “astronomy, filing systems, Havana cigars, and reading aloud”.

His Proms appearances (see Appendix 2) reflect his career curve. After his preliminary canter in 1939-40, he played the Mozart D minor Concerto with Basil Cameron in 1945 and thereafter appeared in every season, often more than once, through to 1961. He was back again in 1963, but that was the last time. His repertoire was, for the most part, solidly Austro-German. He covered all the Beethoven Concertos at one time or another and a fair number of those by Mozart. His sole romantic forays at the Proms were the Schumann and Brahms 2 (once each); his only 20th century adventures were the Rubbra and Rawsthorne 2, both of which he also recorded.

The Radio Times listings, as researched at the BBC Genome site, reveal wider interests. In 1939 he gave one of the Busoni Violin Sonatas with Olive Zorian. Busoni seems to have remained a consistent interest, for he gave the First Sonata with Ralph Holmes in 1970. He worked in duo with Howard Ferguson from 1941 to 1966. Though the expected works by Mozart and Schubert were their core repertoire, they extended to Dvořák, Bizet, Fauré, Debussy, Ravel and, in 1952, a Divertimento by John Joubert. After 1967, Matthews worked in piano duo again with his second wife, Brenda McDermott. Their repertoire was far from a replica of what Matthews had already done with Ferguson. See, for example, “Paraphrase, pastiche and parody: a pot-pourri of provoking piano-pieces by Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel, Casella and Chabrier played by Denis Matthews and Brenda McDermott and introduced by Denis Matthews”, broadcast on Christmas Day 1968. Broadcasts with the violinist Ralph Holmes, from 1965 to at least 1970, show some surprises, with Prokofiev as well as the Stravinsky I heard them play in Ashford and the Busoni just mentioned.

One’s appetite is whetted by a long-running series, “Music in Miniature”. This began in 1945 and continued at least occasionally – or perhaps Matthews’s contributions became more occasional – until 1959. The Radio Times does not tell us what was performed. However, as one reads the names of the performers involved over the years it is difficult not to feel that, if by any chance these broadcasts survive, they should be issued en bloc. Just to give a short selection, singers include Gwen Catley, Joan Cross, Richard Lewis, Hans Hotter and Harold Williams, string players include Arthur Grumiaux, Manoug Parikian, Neville Marriner, Frederick Riddle, Cecil Aronowitz and the Griller Quartet, woodwind players include Gareth Morris, Sydney Sutcliffe, Evelyn Rothwell, Leon Goossens, Reginald Kell, Jack Brymer and Archie Camden, while Dennis Brain put in frequent appearances on the horn.

Matthews’s solo and concerto repertoire, too, was wider-ranging than his Proms appearances or his 78s and LPs would lead one to expect. Many of the Radio Times listings do not actually tell us what was played. Still, whatever his contribution was to “Kenneth Alwyn introduces and conducts Lights of London, a panorama of London’s music, past and present, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Denis Matthews and BBC Chorus”, on 1st December 1970, it could hardly have been Mozart or Beethoven. And what about “A Russian Salad. Some variations on Chopsticks by Russian composers, introduced and played by Denis Matthews”, broadcast on 15 October 1962? Or Dussek’s Sonata in F minor op.77, which he broadcast on 17 July of the same year? As late as 1977 he essayed Ravel’s Sonatine – this casts some doubt on the story of the podgy fingers, I should have thought. Bach’s “Well-Tempered Keyboard” was broadcast in instalments twice over and certain works which he attempted in the recording studios without ever passing the results, such as Bach’s Second English Suite, Beethoven’s Diabelli variations or the Brahms Handel variations, were recorded for the BBC. On 30 August 1958, he broadcast Liszt’s transcription of Beethoven’s First Symphony. This seems to have marked the beginning of a series dedicated to Liszt’s Beethoven Symphony transcriptions, shared between several pianists, since it was followed by the Second Symphony played by Leonard Cassini. Chopin and Bartók are occasionally listed, without details. On 10 April 1957 he gave the Ireland Piano Concerto with Rudolf Schwarz. I have a teenage memory, by the way, of reading a quite commendatory review of a London recital at which he played a Book of Debussy Preludes.

At the same time, Matthews’s “other” career also began quite early. Talks on Beethoven’s Sketchbooks are listed in 1943 and 1944. Boxing Day 1949 saw the forerunner of what was to become an annual Christmas quiz: Musical Games, presided over by Sir Steuart Wilson. Those taking part: Boyd Neel, Denis Matthews, John Amis, Norman Del Mar, William Mann, Maurice Jacobson.

Some of these educational programmes were assuredly valuable and interesting. On 23 April 1956, for example, he took part in "A Mozart Problem", a programme devised and introduced by A. Hyatt King.  Its content was summarised thus: "the piano writing in the slow movements of Mozart’s concertos is often a mere outline of what he himself played. In 1802 Philipp Hoffmann published elaborated versions of the piano parts of six slow movements based on his memories of Mozart’s style of performance. Those for the concertos in C (K467), in A (K488) and in C minor (K491) are being played tonight by Denis Matthews. Listeners will find scores useful. With St. Cecilia Orchestra/Trevor Harvey”. I only wish I could go back in time and ask him why this is fine and my decorations in Haydn were inappropriate.

On the other hand, many other appearances veered too far towards popular entertainment. On 13 April 1956 – just ten days before the above Mozart programme, it was the turn of “Call the Tune. A musical quiz, Chairman: Joseph Cooper. Joyce Grenfell, Stephen Potter, Paul Dehn. Guest: Denis Matthews. Arranged by Walter Todds. The first programme of a further series designed to test, not too seriously, your general knowledge of music”. Whether or not the dummy keyboard was yet in evidence, this was surely the embryo of Joseph Cooper’s “Face the Music” series.

I don’t want to sound a killjoy, but too much of this sort of thing risks giving the idea that it’s what you do best. Some of these programmes give a curious impression of “crossover”, even while Matthew’s himself stayed firmly on the classical side. For example, “It Takes All Sorts. A Grand Piano and an Upright. In this first programme of the new series Denis Matthews, well-known concert pianist and Dick Simpson, popular London pub pianist are brought together. The two musicians talk about their life, dash off a tune, and discuss their approach to music and entertainment in general with Tony van den Bergh”. This was broadcast on 19 January 1965. What a contrast with this BBC Television programme, on 2 April of the same year: “In Rehearsal. Tonight the French cellist Paul Tortelier is partnered for the first time by the English pianist Denis Matthews. They rehearse the last movement of Beethoven’s Sonata op.69. Producer: Walter Todds”.

Television nevertheless opened up new worlds, some of them slightly oddball ones. On 19 July 1969, BBC Two (TV) offered “Free for All. On the Arts: 2. Pop. In which 150 people of varied ages and opinions look at, listen to and freely discuss the music of Pete Brown and his Battered Ornaments. After the discussion their manager Andrew King gives his reactions to some of the comments made. Somewhere among the audience: Hans Keller, Jonathan King, Humphrey Lyttelton, Manfred Mann, Denis Matthews, John Peel. Referee: Paddy Feeny. Interviewer: Mike Raven. Produced by John King”.

In 1971, a new career opened up, as Matthews was appointed first Music Professor of Newcastle University. In 1975 he was awarded the CBE and in 1985 he contributed a study of Beethoven to Dent’s “Master Musicians” series. In 1984, at the age of 65, his Newcastle professorship ended. He moved to Birmingham and with his third wife, Beryl Chempin, another Craxton pupil and a highly regarded piano teacher herself, resumed private piano teaching.

And so, as the years passed, the piano performances became fewer, and even the talk-shows became less frequent. His sole listed contribution in 1988, on 27 and 29 December, was interval talks on the Brahms Piano Quartets. If the talks were to be live, they assuredly never took place. If pre-recorded, possibly they were substituted, for they would have made unbearably poignant listening; Denis Matthews had taken his own life only a few days before, on Christmas Day 1988. It is said that he had been battling with manic depression for many years, but it is also said that this was apparent only to a very few intimate friends.

A Glimpse of Denis Matthews
I don’t know how much of this BBC material, audio or video, still survives. One thing that can be found quite easily, on YouTube, is a colour film of about twenty minutes, presumed to be from the 1960s. This is preserved by omething called the Huntley Film Archives. It shows Matthews, in the elegant surroundings of Grey’s Court, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, describing the piano in an illustrated talk. He touches upon the history of the instrument and the development of the music written for it. He says about as much can be said in such a small space of time. A pity he didn’t check up on the pronunciation of the presumed inventor of the pianoforte, Cristofori, whose name has the accent on the second syllable. If you accent it on the third syllable, as he does, it means “Christ, you’re making a hole!” He also pronounces wrongly Cristofori’s invention, the “gravicembalo”, which is accented on the third syllable not the fourth. At least this doesn’t create a new meaning.

We can see several things here. One is that he creates a friendly, communicative but earnest impression. English pronunciation has changed even in our lifetimes. Matthews might sound a bit highfalutin today, with a bowtie to complete the effect, but I don’t think he did then and I don’t remember thinking that when I heard him speak, live or on the radio/television, in my own younger days.

Rather more interestingly, we hear him in some items, though incomplete, that he didn’t set down in the studios. The film begins to the sound of the cadenza from the Grieg concerto. He plays it with sincere feeling and a certain majestic quality. It is more than interesting enough to arouse the hope that one of his BBC broadcasts of it, of which there were at least two, has survived. His chronological discussion is then illustrated by snippets from a minuet by Purcell, the Bach Chromatic Fantasia, some Mozart, a notable extract from Haydn’s E flat sonata and fragments of Clementi’s Gradus ad Parnassum. Beethoven is represented by bits of op. 2/1 – which he never recorded – and the Appassionata. Both seem a little sedate. He also plays a few bars of the Emperor Concerto. Intriguingly, Chopin is represented by a few – very few – bars from the Third Sonata. Matthews mentions Liszt but prefers to illustrate later romanticism with a bit more Grieg. A pity he doesn’t have space for Debussy, whom he apparently loved dearly. Instead, he states that the composer who understood the piano’s singing capacities more than any other was Chopin and concludes with the last of the op. 24 Preludes. It is brutally terminated on YouTube, lacking the last page or so and – presumably – the final credits. This implies that an original copy of the film may contain a complete performance of the Prelude. It’s a grand, almost Beethovenian concept, interesting enough to whet the appetite for any other Chopin from Matthews that may survive.

Lastly, as pointed out above, we see that Matthews’s fingers were not of the long, thin kind popularly associated with the romantic pianist, but actually rather large for a not especially large man. What we see would seem to support the idea that, as he put on a bit more weight in later life, his middle finger may not have slotted easily between the black keys.

The recordings
I have relied on the Gray catalogue, visible at the CHARM site, for dates and numbers (summarized in Appendix 3). These have been checked against WERM (World Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music) volumes 1-3 (see Appendixes 4-6). Some existing records are not listed and some information is unconvincing, but I discuss the records in chronological order insofar as is possible.

Wartime 78s
Matthews first visited the recording studio on 22 July 1941, setting down Bach’s Second English Suite. He returned to make another version on 27 January 1942. Neither was issued. Gray creates some confusion by listing recordings of Beethoven’s C minor Variations and the Bagatelles op. 119/1 & 11 as recorded on both 15 August 1941 (unissued) and 15 August 1951, in each case with the number Columbia DX1060-1. Since these recordings were issued with that number around 1951/2 and are listed in WERM, I presume that 1941 is a mistake. On the other hand, the record number is consistent with a date in 1941.

Matthews’s third (or fourth) visit to the studios was on 16 September 1942. He recorded Schubert’s Moment Musicaux 2 & 4, which were unissued, and Mozart’s Fantasia and Fugue in C. This was issued on Columbia DX 1095. This was his first record actually to reach the shops. It’s a strongminded reading. The fugue-playing doesn’t achieve the luminosity that Matthews later managed in the Bach D sharp minor fugue , but maybe it is not in the nature of the music that it could. Mozart was not fully himself in fugues, though of course he could put one together as well as anyone post-Bach.

Matthews’s next visit to the studios was a rather famous case. He was given just three days to learn Rawsthorne’s 4 Bagatelles, which he set down on 14 December 1942 to fill the last side of the pioneering recording of the Moeran Symphony conducted by Leslie Heward (2EA 9961).

Not even the more strenuous sections show particular signs of hasty learning. Suave elegance is the name of the game, possibly too much so if we compare the version by Sarah Beth Briggs, a Matthews pupil who, as mentioned above, has always been vocal in her praise of Matthews, both as artist and as teacher. Briggs takes about a minute and a half longer than would have been possible for Matthews, who had to fit all four onto one 78 side. She certainly sounds depths in the two slow Bagatelles that are not evident in Matthews’s renderings, and we are left with the intriguing possibility that her approach may reflect Matthews’s own later thoughts – he broadcast these pieces again in 1977.

On 17 April 1943 Matthews set down Mozart’s A minor Sonata K310. This was issued on Columbia DX 1114-5 and has been transferred to CD by Pearl (review) but I haven’t heard it. 23 and 25 February 1944 was the turn of two Beethoven Sonatas, op. 14/2 and op. 109. Neither were issued. On 2 July 1944 he recorded Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio with Reginald Kell (clarinet) and Anthony Pini (cello). This was issued on Columbia SX 1164-6. For the sixth side, Matthews played an arrangement of the Adagio from Bach’s Third Violin Sonata. I haven’t heard these.

28 August 1944 saw Matthews’s first concerto recording. This was the Mozart A major K488, made with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The recording was to have been conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, but George Weldon took over following the tragic death of Sargent’s daughter Pamela. It was issued on Columbia DX 1167-8. Weldon is a fairly unknown factor in Mozart but perhaps should not be, for his uncomplicatedly joyful approach to the outer movements and his gently shaded middle movement are uplifting. The Liverpool Orchestra is responsive but there are some ungainly moments from the horns, a few traces of anachronistic portamento in the strings, and the bassoon struggles to keep up with the tempo at one point in the finale. The spirit is so convincing that this matters less than it might.

All this fits very well with Denis Matthews’s playing. On his first entry we realize that the sound itself is beautiful, with a sort of gentle luminosity hovering over the notes. Perhaps I should say I have listen to the superbly musical transfer by Bryan Bishop available from his Shellackophile site. Bishop has not tried to filter out the 78 hiss and occasional scratches, and allows us to appreciate what a beautifully rounded sound those records could have if you don’t mess them around trying to make them sound like CDs. This is wonderfully musical Mozart playing, as though it had never occurred to Matthews that the music might be played any other way. I don’t go in for the old romantic blah about Mozart as a young innocent whom the gods loved too dearly, but I do think that Mozart’s depths and even his shadows are sometimes best reached by those who don’t make too much of a fuss about doing so.

Just one observation. In line with many of the older artists of the day, Matthews makes fair use of left-before-right and split chording. Done so naturally, I can’t say it disturbed me in the least.

One Matthews recording that has never been lost sight of is that of Beethoven’s Horn Sonata op.17, which he set down with Dennis Brain on 3 April 1944. It was issued on Columbia DX 11952/3. Given the excellence of Matthews’s own contribution – crisp and with a singing vitality, ideal for early Beethoven – it is surprising that generations of listeners were not led to seek out his solo recordings. One can only assume their attention was wholly caught by the artistry of Dennis Brain, who plays with a lyrical ease we take for granted in a clarinet or a violin, but do not hear so often on the horn. There is also a video of Brain and Matthews playing part of this work – marvellous actually to see them. This was presumably made post-war, since they are out of the RAF uniform they apparently wore while making the Columbia recording. This has been issued on DVD by Beulah. I’m not sure how much more there is compared with what we see on YouTube, but Ian Lace’s review makes it clear that it also included a spoken introduction by Brain.

Matthews’s wartime recordings concluded on 22 June 1945 with two pieces by John Field, the Nocturne no.4 in E minor and the Rondo – “Le Midi” (Nocturne no.18), and, the following day, with a second attempt at Beethoven’s Sonata op. 14/2. The latter was not issued, but the Field were released on Columbia 72525-D.

Just possibly, Matthews could have dug into the singing upper line a little more in the Nocturne, but I appreciate that he doesn’t want to turn it into full-size Chopin. Not that we have much idea of how he played Chopin … The more delicate passages are beautiful, in any case, and “Le Midi” is an absolute delight. What a lilt he gives the main theme! The final clock striking is utterly magical – and it’s an effect that could be plain corny. I don’t know anything about authentic editions of Field – there are considerable departures from my Peters Edition. Maybe Matthews had some information from Frank Merrick.

Post-war 78s
A second attempt at Beethoven’s Sonata op.109, on 15 May 1946, was issued on Columbia DX 1509-11. On 30 August 1946, Matthews set down a brief Suite in C minor by Purcell to go on the sixth side.

It may be a pity that the latest Beethoven sonata recorded by Matthews is actually chronologically his earliest to be issued. His separation of the hands and a few expressive nudges create a slightly extrovert effect. There is a good deal of fine work but the direct route to the heart of Beethoven’s inspiration that he found in later recordings of other Sonatas either failed him, faced with the challenge of late Beethoven, or he had not yet found this direct route in 1946. A direct route that another British pianist, Dame Myra Hess, found in her supremely moving recording of a few years later. I haven’t heard the Purcell Suite.

A Haydn Sonata in E flat was recorded on 22 October 1946. This was issued on Columbia DX 1734-5 and listed in WERM as Sonata no.49 – I hope Matthews approved of the numbering.

Another popular classical piano concerto was set down on 24 April 1947 – Beethoven’s Fifth – “Emperor” (Columbia DX 1462-6). Matthews was joined by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Walter Susskind.

Young ladies who had swooned at the sight of Denis Matthews playing in his RAF uniform and then went to buy this “Emperor” got a thoroughly reliable idea of what the music was all about. Slight tempo vagaries in the first movement may stem from the conductor – Susskind was and remained a pretty unknown factor in Beethoven, this and a Third Concerto with Firkusny seemingly all we have. Nevertheless, Matthews makes a royally Beethovenian sound. The second movement is perhaps nicely rather than magically shaped, but since Beethoven’s magic comes across anyway, there is a case for not gilding the lily. Matthews’s shaping of the finale theme is not completely clear and Susskind sometimes tub-thumps. Not the best “Emperor” going, then, even when there were fewer of them, but neither is it one to leave anyone in doubt as to the splendour of the music.

The results of Matthews’s remaining two visits to the studios in 1947 remained unissued. These were a third try at the Bach Second English Suite, on 11 June, and the Brahms Horn Trio, with Arthur Grumiaux and Dennis Brain, on 20 November.

A clutch of short pieces set down on 25 April 1949 were all issued. These were Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Keyboard (Columbia DX 1635), Beethoven’s Rondo op.51/2 (Columbia DX 1595), Haydn’s Fantasia in C (Columbia DB 2545) and the same composer’s Sonata in E Hob.XVI/31 (Columbia DX 1655). The sheer quantity of material suggests that, while Matthews could sometimes be excessively uptight over his studio efforts – an attempt at Brahms’s Handel Variations four days later was not issued – on other occasions the results flowed freely.

Matthews offers thoroughly pianistic Bach, with a wonderfully luminous tone quality enabling a natural separation of the contrapuntal strands. The Prelude uses a wide dynamic range and the delivery is sometimes rhetorical, but without exaggeration. Matthews brings clarity of structure but also a natural flow and a sense of humanity to what can seem one of Bach’s more cerebral fugues. In general character, though not in details such as ornamentation, this is remarkably similar to the interpretation by Maurice Cole, who a few years later became the first British artist – so far as I know – to record a complete “48”. Cole is a little grander in the Fugue. It may not be insignificant that Matthews’s timing of 4:44 was already pushing the 78 side to its maximum – Cole, on LP, takes 5.22. But if Matthews was under some obligation not to dally, he certainly made a virtue of his limitations.

The Beethoven Rondo gets a beautifully poised reading. As with the 1944 Mozart A major Concerto, we can enjoy, in the non-interventionist, highly musical transfer by Bryan Bishop of Shellackophile, the limpid beauty of sound that Matthews was making at this stage in his career.

I haven’t heard the Haydn Fantasia, but the Sonata is given a very nicely shaped performance, with the repeat in the first movement and including the Allegretto middle movement that not all editions have.

May 1950 saw Denis Matthews collaborating with Edwin Fischer and Ronald Smith in a famous recording of Bach’s Concerto in C for Three Keyboards and Orchestra. Fischer himself directed the Philharmonia Orchestra. This was issued on HMV DB 21180/2.

When this concerto is played by three harpsichords, the mechanical nature of the instruments ensures that, provided three practically identical harpsichords are used, the balance between them will take care of itself. On the other hand, the clucking nature of the harpsichord would render very obvious the slightest vagary of ensemble. No problems about precision of ensemble here, I think, except that Fischer occasionally cannot resist slight expressive vagaries when he has the principal melodic line. In terms of weight of tone, though, the three pianists are different. Fischer has the sort of natural, unforced projection that is seemingly the exclusive property of great pianists. Smith, on the second part, is rather retiring and sometimes submerges beneath the others. Matthews is assertive, but squarer in tone and phrasing than Fischer. But I do not wish to make too much of this, and it is endemic, I think, to a performance by pianists rather than harpsichordists. The orchestra is full-toned, but, as invariably with Fischer, his musicality and humanity shine through.

Apart from this major offering, 1950-1 seems to have thrown up a plethora of unissued recordings by Matthews. On 19 April 1950, he set down Preludes and Fugues in C, G, B and D minor by Bach – Gray gives no further identification. On 23 April 1951 he recorded the Prelude and Fugue in C from Book 1 and that in G from Book 2. The following day he attempted a new recording of the Mozart A minor Sonata, on 28 April he set down part of Beethoven’s Sonata op.27/1. On 7 May he recorded another Bach Prelude and Fugue, in F (no other identification) and had a further go at Mozart’s Sonata in A minor. On 15 August 1951 he recorded (perhaps) the Beethoven Variations in C minor and Bagatelles op.119/1 & 11 which, as discussed above, have also been attributed to 15 August 1941 and would seem, from their catalogue number (DX 1060-1), to date from 1941 but appear to have been issued in 1951, which seems strange. I haven’t heard them.

Better luck was had by the Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, set down on 24 February 1952 and issued on Columbia DX8403-4. The fourth side contained the first Prelude and Fugue from Bach’s 48, recorded on 1st January 1953. According to Gray’s catalogue, Matthews also recorded an unissued performance of Bach’s Concerto Italiano on 24 February 1952. However, Gray lists no other recording of this work by Matthews and a recording certainly was issued, on an early LP paired with the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (Columbia C.51004). This is listed in WERM 3. Whether the 24/2 recording was issued after all, or whether another version was set down, not listed in Gray, the performance is certainly a good one. Matthews is no believer in terraced dynamics, but his approach is thoroughly musical and he differentiated beautifully between the “tutti” and the “solo” sections. I especially enjoyed the coursing vitality of the finale.

The 78 era closed with unissued performances of atypical repertoire – Mendelssohn’s Three Fantaisies op. 16 and, fascinatingly, Sibelius’s Third Sonatina.

Columbia LPs
According to Gray’s Catalogue, Matthews recorded Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata on 5 January 1953, issued on Columbia SX 1029, and again on 5 March of the same year, issued in tandem with op.28 on Columbia SX 1021. Gray also lists two sessions for op.28, on 8 January and 8 March 1953. These are at least attributed the same number, Columbia SX 1021. Gray furthermore lists sessions for the “Appassionata”, on 7 January and 6 March 1953, both issued as Columbia SX 1023. SX 1029 can be proved a red herring, since this was the number of a record of jazz improvisations by The Hot Five. The question remains whether all the January sessions are listed erroneously or whether Matthews made unissued recordings of these sonatas in January and successful ones in March. The “Appassionata” shared a disc with a third attempt, this time deemed worthy of issue, at op.14/2, dated 20 February 1953.

Two further Beethoven Sonatas were recorded the following year: op.31/2 on 10 May 1954 and op.7 on 1 June 1954. Gray gives no numbers for these but they must have been issued, since they can be found on YouTube. I’ve heard most of this Beethoven but not op. 14/2 or the “Appassionata”. There’s a beautiful rightness and steadiness about Matthews’s op.7. Everything falls into place, but not academically so. If elsewhere Matthews does not always give slow movements their full gravity, there’s no such problem here. Nor is it easy to judge a tempo that fits the Scherzo and Trio equally. It’s maybe harder still to find one that allows grace and rage to alternate naturally in the Finale. Not ostentatious playing, but superb nonetheless. There’s no first movement repeat. Op. 28 – the “Pastorale” – is supremely musical. Tempi and phrasing all breathe naturally and with inner warmth. The finale is sublime in its simplicity. The first movement repeat is observed. Superb, too, is the only word for op.31/2 – “The Storm”. One need only hear the first page to witness how Matthews’s placing of the accents and dynamic contrasts produces an effect of fiery impetus that remains just under control. With a properly inward slow movement and a finale that combines steady inevitability with desperate fury, it would be difficult to imagine a finer performance. All obtained, be it said, through exemplary but imaginative realization of what is written in the score – including all repeats. If op.53 – the “Waldstein” – is even finer, this is simply because Beethoven himself had surpassed his earlier achievement. In a way, it all seems so simple, just a matter of doing what is written. But not every “literal” performance achieves this cumulative impact, this sense of magnificent vistas unfolding before our eyes.

Of equally high value were four Mozart Piano Concertos in which Matthews was accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra under Rudolf Schwarz. These were K449 (22 March 1954, Columbia SX 1031), K488 (23 March 1954, Columbia S 1039), K595 (1st April 1954, Columbia SX 1044) and K414, for which I have no date, but which shared SX 1031. Schwarz seems to have been ideally suited to the earlier, more rococo Mozart of K414. Everything is exquisitely phrased and balanced. I’d have said “manicured”, but I don’t want to give the idea that he overdoes it, or that there is not real life and feeling to the music-making. I am reminded of a comment by the oboist Janet Craxton, in a book on the BBC Symphony Orchestra, to the effect that Schwarz’s apparently laid-back methods actually induced a chamber-music style of playing. There is a real sensation, here, that the players are listening to each other and reacting to each other.

Denis Matthews fits into this like a glove. And I suppose “fits into” has a certain double edge to it. This is not, after all, an expanded piano quintet with the soloist one of a team. A bit of solo grease seems to be missing. Put it this way: if Matthews had been carted off to Vienna or Hamburg to record this concerto for Vox or Concert Hall with a pick-up orchestra of moonlighting musicians under a conductor struggling manfully to keep them awake and more or less together, we would say how beautifully he plays and what a pity he didn’t have adequate support. This, in fact, is exactly what we do say about earlier recordings by Brendel or Haebler. As things are, there is the suspicion that, beautifully as he plays, and he certainly does, when the orchestra take up the themes, they play them more beautifully still.

As far as the first movement of K449 is concerned, my comments under K.414 apply exactly. Then something more happens. Things gel and a true partnership emerges, in which Matthews dominates naturally while still remaining primus inter pares. The second movement is sublime and the finale catches the grace and poise, as well as the humour, of this slightly unusual movement.

Ten years on from the earlier K488, left-before-right and split chording has been expunged. This is not the only sign that Matthews had been reassessing his Mozart. Beautifully phrased as it is, there is the suspicion that a certain deliberation, even caution has entered the proceedings. A first reaction might be to assign this to the slightly more sober figure of Rudolph Schwarz on the rostrum. Yet this is emphatically not one of the dull-dog, lifeless performances Schwarz was notoriously capable of giving. The orchestral playing is beautifully phrased and pointed. Moreover, Matthews himself, when setting the finale in motion, creates a more parcelled-out impression than before. There is no reason to suppose, therefore, that Schwarz’s contribution is not carefully geared to the performance Matthews wished to give in 1954. It remains a very fine performance, with excellent integration between piano and orchestra. It’s just that something has been lost in comparison with the carefree spirit of the earlier one with Weldon.

The finest of the Matthews/Schwarz concertos, however, is K595, a true collaboration on the highest level. Both artists show a wonderful humility in the face of such great music, seeking only to reveal the music in all its beauty, without exaggeration or undue point-making. It would be difficult to imagine anything better than this.

A just reward for such beautiful Mozart performances as those Matthews and Schwarz had set down in 1954 might have been a contract to record the rest of the cycle – it would have been the first by a single team. However, the Gray catalogue shows that, prior to these, on 15 January 1953, Matthews had set down K453 with another frequent collaborator, Harry Blech and the London Mozart Players. It must have been irksome to have that single performance uncoupled and unused, so on 29 June 1955 the team got back together for K503.

There were some advantages to the change. Good as the London Mozart Players were, they were sufficiently inferior to the Philharmonia under Schwarz at his very finest to enable Matthews to emerge as the leading partner in K.453. Harry Blech, too, had at least something of Weldon’s joyful verve. But, while Weldon was free-spirited, Blech was more free-wheeling. There is ultimately something generalized, even casual, about the phrasing. It remains a very good performance from Matthews, more than adequately accompanied.

In K.503, Matthews ignores Blech’s bonhomie and gives an intimate, gentle performance, beautifully proportioned and poised according to its own lights. The perfect partner for such a concept, one imagines, would have been Schwarz. Blech occasionally forges ahead with the tempi – the last bars of the first movement and certain wind phrases in the finale for example. It’s minimal, but enough to show that he felt the music a mite faster. It possibly explains a slightly uninvolved air which didn’t always inform his conducting. As with K.453, it remains an appreciable performance, lacking only the exceptional qualities of the best Matthews/Schwarz collaborations.

The remaining performances from this Columbia period were unissued. Mendelssohn’s 3 Fantaisies op.16 were set down a second time on 10 May 1954 and a third on 2 June. Deceptively, Gray’s catalogue gives numbers for some of these. On investigation, CX1479, which Gray attributes to Mendelssohn’s op.16/1, is the number of Gieseking’s selection of “Songs without Words”, while CX1751/SAX 2398, which Gray attaches to op.16/2, is the number of Klemperer’s coupling of Mendelssohn’s and Schumann’s Fourth Symphonies. No Mendelssohn by Matthews was ever issued, then. On 2 June 1954, Matthew’s also recorded Brahms’s 4 Klavierstücke op.119 and on 28 June 1954 he attempted Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, likewise unissued.

Rubbra and Rawsthorne
In 1958, Matthews recorded two contemporary British concertos. He was accompanied, as on recent Prom outings of the same works, by the BBC Symphony orchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent (HMV CLP 1164).

Rubbra’s Piano Concerto contains moments of very great, and grave, beauty, but also has episodes that seem oddly banal and some bloated climaxes that appear unmotivated. As far as I can tell, this is no fault of Matthews, nor of Sargent, though the orchestra is not immaculate and the conductor operates on an episode-by-episode basis rather than structurally. Few concertos have a more entrancing opening than Rawsthorne’s Second. It quickly runs out of steam, though. In all four movements the ear is continually beguiled only to find the attention wandering again. Or at least, that is what happens with this performance. Unusually for a modern British piano concerto, this was already its second recording. The first had been set down by its original interpreter, Clifford Curzon, in 1951, again with Sargent conducting. Curzon takes slightly fleeter tempi. This, together with greater virtuoso address, means that the tension rises just where Matthews seems laboured, and the music does not run out of steam in the same way. Sargent appears more involved here. A later, undated performance by John Ogdon with John Pritchard conducting the BBC Symphony orchestra can be found on YouTube. Ogdon treats it as a post-Rachmaninov solo vehicle and shows it can work that way. Pritchard’s conducting is cool, but oddly enough this provides an interesting foil to the more impassioned solo work. One conductor of all has found far more colour, character and expressive range than the other two put together, and that is Sir John Barbirolli, whose 1967 performance with George Hadjinikos can also be found on YouTube. Hadjinikos also finds a good deal under the surface of the piano part. He was lucky to have such an imaginative guide to Rawsthorne’s world on the rostrum, but certain touches, such as his smoochy playing of the soft episode in the finale, must have stemmed from his own imagination. This is the performance I would return to, but I have to say that any of these three have more to offer than the Matthews. This, obviously, raises the question whether the Rubbra concerto could have sounded more effective in other hands.

Vanguard LPs
In the mid-1960s, the American Vanguard company issued five LPs in which Matthews offered further items from his core Viennese repertoire. Gray’s catalogue shows that most of these – I suspect all of them – were made in 1958, though not issued at the time. It also shows that the concertos and the chamber work were made in Vienna while, of the solo works, Matthews travelled to New York for the Beethoven at least.

For a brace of Mozart Concertos, K466 and K491, Matthews was joined by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra under Hans Swarowsky. These were made in June 1958 (Vanguard SRV-142SD).

Swarowsky was a more forceful conductor than Schwarz, though these minor-key concertos are more forceful by nature anyway. In K466, the collaboration with Matthews is very fine – the pianist stands out rather than dominates, but he certainly plays very well. In the middle movement he decorates the melodic line considerably – maybe the Hoffmann variants he also played for the BBC? The orchestra accompany as if spellbound – evidently Swarowsky appreciated this. Swarowsky starts K491, too, with considerable punch and grandeur. The orchestra is very fine in the first movement and this is another case where the very good Matthews can seem upstaged by the orchestra. Still, so far so fine. Matthews has the middle movement flowing a bit too easily, and one senses that Swarowsky thinks so too, since he very slightly broadens out when he can. In the finale it’s the other way round. Swarowsky tries to keep up a bright, military clip. Matthews sometimes tries to slow it down, sometimes he goes along with it a little breathlessly. On the whole, this has to be the weakest of Matthews’s Mozart concerto recordings, while the D minor was one of the best.
A Mozart solo album had Matthews’s second issued performance of the A minor Sonata together with his first recordings of the C minor, preceded by the C minor Fantasia, and the B flat K333.

Matthews’s 1943 version of the A minor Sonata was included in a Pearl album that I haven’t heard. In the later version, the first movement rages wonderfully but within Mozartian bounds, at a steady tempo. Reviewing the Pearl issue, Jonathan Woolf wondered if the lack of repeats was due to the constraints of 78 sides, but there are none here either, so evidently that’s how Matthews wanted it. The second movement sings well but might have explored a greater emotional reach. The finale has splendid drive. In the C minor Fantasia, Matthews returns to his old habit of separating the hands. Reaction to this is personal; I found myself waiting tensely for the next time he did it. The wait was never long. Otherwise, this and the first movement are done strongly but without especial insight. The first movement has its repeat. In the second movement Matthews does not, for once, adopt too easily flowing a tempo and there are many really lovely things. However, he does sometimes seem to want to move ahead of his chosen tempo. Best, perhaps, is the finale, which has a fine daemonic drive while remembering this is Mozart not Beethoven. What makes this disc especially worthwhile is K333. The outer movements are the sort of Mozart one dreams about but doesn’t often find. Here, Matthews recaptures the sense of joyful, bubbling engagement he showed in the A major concerto with Weldon. No repeat in the first movement – a pity. The middle movement is another of those that sings very limpidly, but where a graver tempo can open up Mozartian depths that are evaded here.
Definitely recorded in New York from 14 to 17 October 1958 were two Beethoven albums dedicated to Variations (Vanguard VSD 2017) and Bagatelles (Vanguard VSD 2018). I found the different transfer philosophies applied to the versions of these recordings that I listened to affected considerably my reactions to the performances themselves, so I need to address this first.

The English Columbia recordings from earlier in the decade, which I’ve heard by courtesy of YouTube, had the reassuring background of vinyl hiss plus the odd scratch. The sound wasn’t always beautiful – as the earlier shellacs were in Bryan Bishop’s sensitive transfers – but it was alive. There’s an antiseptic quality to what I’ve heard in these Vanguard recordings that may stem from the New York studio, but may derive, instead, from subsequent misguided attempts to make it sound like a digital recording. The impression given by Matthews’s programme of the C minor Variations, the Variations in F op.34 and the Eroica Variations op.35 is of very proficient, clean, idiomatic, observant playing without the vital spark Matthews showed earlier. Unfortunately, I have not been able to hear the 1951 Columbia recording of the C minor Variations, which may provide a clue as to whether Matthews’s former sense of natural engagement was giving way to an easy elegance – though the C minor Variations were actually the ones I enjoyed most here.

The disc of the Bagatelles opp. 33, 119 and 126 rather clarifies my perplexities over the Variations LP. I have heard one transfer of op.126 with all LP background noises rigorously expunged and the same dead acoustic as with the Variations – and the same impression that the artist was proficient but not engaged as of yore. I have also heard a transfer of op.33 nos.5-7 with a reassuring LP swish, yet with exactly the same close, dead acoustic. But I have also heard a transfer of the entire disc, again with all the LP background noises, but distanced, with the piano set in an acoustic. The playing was revealed in its beauty and artistry, Matthews spontaneously revelling in music he deeply revered. However you hear these performances, you can hardly fail to find them exemplary in their tempi and phrasing. What a pleasure, though, to find that they are magical after all too. So maybe the Variations were magical too, really?
For Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, Matthews was joined by members of the Vienna Konzerthaus Quartet; Anton Kamper (violin), Erich Weiss (viola), Ludwig Beinl (cello) and Josef Herrmann (double bass). The recording was set down on 1st June 1958 (Vanguard SRV151).

What might be called the post-Brendel, post-Fischer-Dieskau age has probed areas of Schubertian angst unknown to earlier interpreters who stressed the heart-easing melody. The “Trout”, though, is maybe one work that has remained as before, vernally fresh and relatively untroubled. That is certainly how it goes here. Denis Matthews has the perfect unforced, liquid tone for Schubert, or at least this side of Schubert, making it very sad indeed that we have no solo works at all from him. This particular performance is all the more precious, therefore. Happily, he and his Viennese partners are clearly of one mind over how the music is to be played.

This Vanguard phase marked, so far as I can see, the end of Matthews’s recording career purely as a solo pianist. In 1976 a label called Discourses All About Music issued his thoughts on Beethoven’s Sketchbooks on eight LPs (AMB 1-8). The discussions on the Piano Sonatas were illustrated by Matthews himself. Richard Osborne (Gramophone, September 1976) found the playing “vital and stylish (a genuine source of pleasure)”. For the rest, one can only hope that some of Matthews’s BBC recordings – or good quality home tapings of them – survive.

Reviewing the Pearl compilation of Matthews recordings, my colleague Jonathan Woolf was critical of their contention that his career was cut short by his “tragic early death”. “Tragic, yes – early, no”, Jonathan thought. Matthews was 69, after all.

It is always a tragedy when a person takes his own life. But as for the musical tragedy, perhaps this had quietly consumed itself years before. Perhaps, too, Matthews knew this only too well, as he sought to cover his traces by talking to people instead of playing to them. So what actually happened to the brilliant young pianist my mother remembers?

Certainly, Denis Matthews from the mid-forties to the mid-fifties must have seemed an astoundingly talented young man, Britain’s best bet for an interpreter of the Viennese classics to rival the best from Germany and Austria. Like many young men of brilliant promise, his art was perhaps more imitative than people realized – an instinctive compendium of the pianists he most admired in his chosen repertoire. It may therefore not have been deep-rooted enough for self-renewal. Self-renewal came a more easy way – by chatting to his public. And giving them a lot of pleasure, let us not deny this.

At the same time, his many unissued recordings suggest a deep vein of self-doubt, of destructive self-criticism. What could go as a once-off for the BBC was rejected again and again in the recording studios. How terrible to record a work you care about deeply, like the Bach Second English Suite or the Mendelssohn 3 Fantaisies, three times over, yet not feel able to pass any of them for release. How heartrending to spend a day setting down pinnacles of the repertoire, such as the Beethoven Diabelli Variations or the Brahms Handel Variations, only to reject it as worthless.

So by 1988 Matthews had to face the fact that his brilliantly promising career had petered out years before, his career as a University professor had ended when he reached retirement age, his once frequent broadcasts had faded to an occasional interval talk. He was still sought after as a teacher, but events suggest that he felt he had reached the end of the road. Many other people have felt, at one time or another, that they have reached the end of the road. Most of them have the psychological antibodies to soldier on. Some find they had not reached the end of the road after all. Others decline gracefully into a benign old age collecting stamps, growing rhubarb or reading the complete works of Trollope. But Matthews was a manic depressive. Evidently things came to a head at a moment when his psychological antibodies were at a low ebb.

What would have been infinitely frustrating and galling for anybody was the fact that he had made a select number of recordings that hold an honourable position in the extremely rich discographies of the works in question. Yet all were apparently deleted without trace during the last two decades of his life. At least three of the Mozart concertos with Schwarz, at least one each of those with Blech and Swarowsky, most of his Beethoven solo works and the Schubert “Trout” Quintet are a legacy that should not be forgotten.

Christopher Howell

Appendix 1: Broadcasts of interest

This information is taken from the BBC Genome site, which is based on Radio Times listings. It is a selective list. I have generally ignored broadcasts where information is limited – “Piano Recital by Denis Matthews”. Some of these may have been compilations from gramophone records anyway. Also, I have not listed the many orchestral concerts for which Matthews is listed as soloist, but with no indication of what was played. For his many talks, I have given only a selection as an indication of the sort of work he did.
30.03.1936 Maud Bostock (soprano), Vernon Roberts (baritone), Denis Matthews (piano)
20.09.1937 A Ballad Concert, with Irene Hinsley (soprano) and R.E. Anderson (baritone)
13.12.1937 A Ballad Concert, with Monica Edwards (soprano) and Horace Priestley (tenor)
07.07.1939 with Olive Zorian (violin). At least one of the sonatas by Busoni and a movement from the FAE Sonata by Dietrich-Brahms-Schumann
26.05.1940 broadcast of Matthews’s 5 Sketches by Isolde Menges and Howard Ferguson
22.02.1941 Schumann: Kinderszenen
29.10.1941 Milhaud: Scaramouche, with Howard Ferguson
08.07.1942 Beethoven: Sonata op.24 “Spring” with Harry Blech (violin)
28.07.1942 Beethoven: Sonata op.27/2 “Moonlight”
08.08.1942 Mozart Sonata K358, Debussy: Petite Suite with Howard Ferguson
16.10.1942 Vaughan Williams: On Wenlock Edge with Trefor Jones (tenor) and the Griller Quartet
12.12.1942 Schubert: Fantaisie in F m, with Howard Ferguson
16.12.1942 Beethoven Sonata op.12/3 with Harry Blech (violin)
27.02.1943 Schubert: Andantino Varié op.84/1 and March in C op.121/1 with Howard Ferguson
30.04.1943 Beethoven: Sonata op.30/2, with Harry Blech (violin)
29.07.1943 Brahms: Trio, with Harry Blech (violin) and Dennis Brain (horn)
05.12.1943 Talks about Beethoven’s sketchbooks
08.05.1944 Ravel: Ma Mère l’Oye, with Howard Ferguson (piano)
09.07.1944 Talks about Beethoven’s sketchbooks
03:10.1944 Brahms: Trio, with Harry Blech (violin) and Dennis Brain (horn) (repeat of 29.07.1943?)
22.08.1945 Beethoven: Sonata op.96, with Harry Blech (violin)
17.10.1945 Beethoven: Sonata op.96, with Harry Blech (violin) (repeat of 22.08.1945?)
02.11.1945 Brahms: 6 Hungarian Dances, with Howard Ferguson (piano)
15.11.1945 Music in Miniature: a new kind of musical entertainment with Gwen Catley (soprano), Denis Matthews (piano), Gareth Morris (flute) and the Griller Quartet
05.09.1946 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Harold Williams (baritone), Denis Matthews (piano), Leonard Hirsch (violin), Reginald Morley (violin), Max Gilbert (viola) and Harvey Phillips (cello).
11.09.1946 Music in miniature, a musical entertainment given by Harold Williams (baritone), Denis Matthews (piano), Leonard Hirsch (piano), Max Gilbert (viola) and Harvey Phillips (cello). (Recording of last Thursday’s broadcast in the Light Programme).
05.12.1946 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), Arthur Grumiaux (violin), Emelie Hook (mezzo-soprano), James Whitehead (cello) and John Alexandra (bassoon). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.
10.04.1947 Music in Miniature, a music entertainment given by Denis Matthews and Howard Ferguson (pianos), Hans Hotter (baritone), Leonard Hirsch and Reginald Morley (violins), Jean Stewart (viola) and Harvey Phillips (cello). The programme introduced by Basil Douglas.
18.05.1947 Bach: Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor (Book 1), Prelude and Fugue in E flat major (Book 2)
15.07.1947 Mozart: Variations in G K501, Sonata in F K497, with Howard Ferguson.
17.07.1947 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Harold Williams (baritone), Denis Matthews (piano), Arthur Gleghorn (flute), Leonard Hirsch (violin), Reginald Morley (violin), Max Gilbert (viola) and Harvey Phillips (cello). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.
22.07.1947 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Harold Williams (baritone), Denis Matthews (piano), Arthur Gleghorn (flute), Leonard Hirsch (violin), Reginald Morley (violin), Max Gilbert (viola) and Harvey Phillips (cello). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.
08.11.1947 Rawsthorne: Theme and Variations for 2 violins, Bagatelles for piano, Concertante no.2 for violin and piano, Songs. Away delights; A Carol; Theme and Variations for string quartet. With Sophie Wysss (soprano), Denis Matthews (piano), Jessie Hinchliffe and Maurice Clare (violins), Max Gilbert (viola), Harvey Phillips (cello).
04.12.1947 Music in Miniature, a music entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), Evelyn Rothwell (oboe), Reginald Kell (clarinet), Archie Camden (bassoon), Dennis Brain (horn), Alfred Cave (violin), Leonard Dight (violin), Watson Forbes (viola), John Moore (cello), James Merrett (double-bass). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.
09.12.1947 Haydn: Sonata 30 in A, no.31 in E (The sonatas are numbered according to the Breitkopf collected edition of Haydn’s works).
24.01.1948 Mozart: Quintet K452, with Evelyn Rothwell (oboe), Reginald Kell (clarinet), Archie Camden (bassoon), Dennis Brain (horn).
12.02.1948 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), Arthur Grumiaux (violin), David Martin (violin), Max Gilbert (viola), James Whitehead (cello) and Dennis Brain (horn). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.
26.02.1948 Music in Miniature, a music entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), Richard Lewis (tenor), Reginald Kell (clarinet), Leonard Hirsch (violin), Reginald Morley (violin), Max Gilbert (viola), Harvey Phillips (cello), James Merrett (double-bass). Programme arranged by Basil Douglas.
03.03.1948 Mozart: Sonata K19d, with Howard Ferguson
08.03.1948 Mozart: Sonatas K358 and K521, with Howard Ferguson.
16.03.1948 Beethoven: Piano Concerto 1, with BBC Scottish O/Ian Whyte.
17.03.1948 Mozart: Sonatas K.381 and K497, with Howard Ferguson.
11.05.1948 Haydn: Sonata 50 in C, Capriccio in G, Sonata 51 in D
29.06.1948 Mozart: Quintet K452, with Evelyn Rothwell (oboe), Reginald Kell (clarinet), Archie Camden (bassoon), Dennis Brain (horn) (repeat of 24.01.1948?).
18.07.1948 Mozart: Quintet K452, with Evelyn Rothwell (oboe), Reginald Kell (clarinet), Archie Camden (bassoon), Dennis Brain (horn) (repeat of 24.01.1948?).
24.03.1949 Beethoven: Sonata op.28.
29.03.1949 Beethoven: Sonata op. 31/2 (repeated 15.01.1951).
08.06.1949 Schubert: Andantino op.84/1, Grand March op.40/2, Characteristic March op.121/1, Variations op.35, with Howard Ferguson.
28.06.1949 Mozart: Sonata K331
03.07.1949 Beethoven: Piano Concerto 2, with Yorkshire SO/Maurice Miles
04.07.1949 Beethoven. Piano Concerto 1, with Hallé Orchestra/Sir John Barbirolli.
11.07.1949 Schubert: Grand Rondeau op.107, Introduction & Variations op.160, Allegro
17.07.1949 Mozart: Piano Concerto K595, with London Mozart Players/Harry Blech (same programme listed for 18.07.1949).
26.08.1949 Schubert: Andantino op.84/1, Grand March op.40/2, Characteristic March op.121/1, Variations op.35, with Howard Ferguson (repeat of 08.06.1949?).
22.10.1949 Mozart: Sonatas K333 and K331
22.12.1949 Schubert: Sonata in C (Grand Duo), with Howard Ferguson
26.12.1949 Musical Games, presided over by Sir Steuart Wilson. Those taking part: Boyd Neel, Denis Matthews, John Amis, Norman Del Mar, William Mann, Maurice Jacobson.
13.01.1950 Beethoven: Piano Concerto 4, with BBC SO/Sir Malcolm Sargent (Proms Winter Season).
25.04.1950 Mozart: Piano Concerto K491, with London Mozart Players/Harry Blech.
26.05.1950 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), Leonard Hirsch (violin), Kathleen Sturdy (violin), Colin Sauer (violin), Lorraine Duval (violin), Stephen Shingles (viola), Molly Panter (viola), Cecil Aronowitz (viola), James Whitehead (cello), Peter Beavan (cello), Norina Semino (cello), James Merrett (double bass), Clifton Helliwell (harpsichord), arranged by Basil Douglas.
18.07.1950 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), Leonard Hirsch (violin), Kathleen Sturdy (violin), Colin Sauer (violin), Lorraine Duval (violin), Stephen Shingles (viola), Molly Panter (viola), Cecil Aronowitz (viola), James Whitehead (cello), Peter Beavan (cello), Norina Semino (cello), James Merrett (double bass), Clifton Helliwell (harpsichord), arranged by Basil Douglas (repeat of 26.05.1950?).
23.07.1950 Mozart: Piano Concerto K453, with LSO/Edric Cundell
06.08.1950 Schubert: Sonata in C (Grand Duo), with Howard Ferguson (repeat of 22.12.1949?). (Repeated 05.11.1950).
18.08.1950 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment with Joan Cross (soprano), Denis Matthews (piano), Dennis Brain (horn), Manoug Parikian (violin), Hans Geiger (violin), Herbert Downes (viola), Bernard Davis (viola), Raymond Clarke (cello), James Merrett (double bass), Clifton Helliwell (accompanist), arranged by Basil Douglas.
06.10.1950 Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1: 13-18 (repeated 28.03.1951).
07.10.1950 Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1: 19-24 (repeated 31.12.1950).
14.12.1950 Beethoven’s Sketch Books, first of two illustrated talks.
21.12.1950 Beethoven’s Sketch Books, second of two illustrated talks.
10.01.1951 Mozart: Piano Concerto K449, with BBC SO/Sir Malcolm Sargent (Proms Winter Season)
02.05.1951 Beethoven Sonata op.47 “Kreutzer”, with Arthur Grumiaux (violin).
15.05.1951 Schubert: Piano Quintet “The Trout”, with Norbert Brainin (violin), Peter Schidlof (viola), Martin Lovett (cello), J. Edward Merrett (double bass).
30.06.1951 Beethoven: Diabelli Variations (repeated 03.09.1951, 08.07.1953, 04, 09.1953).
05.07.1951 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), Sidney Sutcliffe (oboe), Jack Brymer (clarinet), John Alexandra (bassoon), Charles Gregory (horn), David Martin (violin), Neville Marriner (violin), Eileen Grainger (viola), Bernard Richards (cello) (repeated 24.10.1951).
18.08.1951 Beethoven: Bagatelles op.126, Rondo op.51/2
04.11.1951 Beethoven: Sonatas op.27/2 and op.53
10.02.1952 Beethoven and Chopin, first of three programmes, each of which will include a Beethoven sonata
25.04.1952 Debussy: Epigraphes antiques; Fauré: Dolly, with Howard Ferguson
10.05.1952 Schumann: Piano Quintet, with Amadeus Quartet.
20.10.1952 Bach: The Well-Tempered Keyboard Book II: 1-8
22.10.1952 Bach: The Well-Tempered Keyboard Book II: 9-16
25.10.1952 Bach: The Well-Tempered Keyboard Book II: 17-24 (repeated 15.04.1953).
02.11.1952 Joubert: Divertimento (dedicated to Howard Ferguson), with Howard Ferguson
19.02.1953 Martinu: Le Revue de Cuisine – Suite, with LSO Chamber Ensemble.
12.03.1953 Dvořák: Suite op.52, From the Bohemian Woods Book I, with Howard Ferguson (repeated 20.04.1953).
19.07.1953 Beethoven and Hindemith (no details), with Dennis Brain (horn) (repeated 09.02.1954).
16.09.1953 Beethoven: Sonata op.109.
12.11.1953 Brahms and Mozart (no details), with Jack Brymer (clarinet), Dennis Brain (horn), Manoug Parikian (violin), Frederick Riddle (viola).
13.12.1953 Schubert and Brahms (no details).
18.02.1954 Mozart: Sonata K497, with Howard Ferguson.
04.03.1955 Schubert: Sonata in A op.120; Sonata in C “La Relique” (repeated 27.05.1955, “Relique” repeated 16.11.1955).
05.12. 1955 Music in Miniature, a musical entertainment given by Denis Matthews (piano), The Purcell Singers/Imogen Holst, Dennis Brain (horn), the Martin String Quartet, Kenneth Essex (viola), programme arranged by Basil Douglas (repeated 27.12.1955).
25.12.1955 Music Quiz, a not-too.-serious Christmas entertainment, devised and introduced by Fritz Spiegl. T. Ernest Bean, Norman Del Mar, Paul Jennings and Denis Matthews answer the questions.
13.04.1956. Call the Tune. A musical quiz, Chairman: Joseph Cooper. Joyce Grenfell, Stephen Potter, Paul Dehn. Guest: Denis Matthews. Arranged by Walter Todds. The first programme of a further series designed to test, not too seriously, your general knowledge of music.
23.04.1956 A Mozart Problem. Programme devised and introduced by A. Hyatt King. The piano writing in the slow movements of Mozart’s concertos is often a mere outline of what he himself played. In 1802 Philipp Hoffmann published elaborated versions of the piano parts of six slow movements based on his memories of Mozart’s style of performance. Those for the concertos in C (K467), in A (k488) and in C minor (K491) are being played tonight. Listeners will find scores useful. With St. Cecilia orchestra/Trevor Harvey (repeated 25.10.1956).
25.12.1956 Music Quiz. A seasonal programme, not too serious, devised and introduced by Denis Matthews. The victims: Joan Trimble, Norman Del Mar, William Mann, Basil Douglas (repeated 30.12.1956).
10.04.1957 Ireland: Piano Concerto, with BBC SO/Rudolf Schwarz.
30.08.1958 Beethoven-Liszt: Symphony 1 (followed by Symphony 2 played by Leonard Cassini).
26.12.1958 A Musical Quiz. A not too serious programme devised and introduced by Norman Del Mar. The victims: Iain Hamilton, Denis Matthews, Fritz Spiegl, John Warrack.
07.03.1959 A Listen and Learn Series: Background to Music. Beethoven: Piano Concerto 5: Last of 3 illustrated talks by Denis Matthews.
16.03.1959 Music in Miniature, a music entertainment given by Rene Soames (tenor), Desmond Dupré (lute), Leon Goossens (oboe), members of the Melos Ensemble. Programme devised by Barry Douglas.
27.05.1959 Schumann: Sonata 2 for violin and piano; Andante and Variations for 2 pianos, 2 cellos and horn. Yfreah Neaman (violin), Howard Ferguson, Denis Matthews (pianos), Florence Hooton, Muriel Taylor (cellos), Barry Tuckwell (horn).
05.08.1959 Ravel: Fanfare (L’Eventail de Jeanne); Frontispice; Ma Mère l’Oye, with Howard Ferguson (repeated 27.02.1960).
16.08.1959 Music Questions. Robert Irwin invites Howard Ferguson, Peter Racine Fricker and Denis Matthews to answer questions sent by listeners, mainly about composing and piano playing.
03.09.1959 Beethoven: Sonatas op.54 and op.27/2 “Moonlight”.
13.09.1959 Music Questions. Robert Irwin invites Archie Camden, Charles Mackerras and Denis Matthews to answer questions sent by listeners.
23.09.1959 Woman’s Hour. Guest of the Week: Denis Matthews.
29.10.1959 Bach: The Well-Tempered Keyboard Book I: nos. 7-12
14.08.1960 Music Questions, a weekly series of programmes in which well-known musicians discuss questions sent by listeners. This week’s panel: Peter Racine Fricker, Denis Matthews, Boyd Neel. Chairman: Robert Irwin (Matthews appeared in further programmes in this series on 23.07.1961, 22.07.1962, 18.08.1963, 23.07.1965, 15.07.1966, 30.09.1966, 13.11.1967).
20.10.1961 Bizet: Jeux d’Enfants, with Howard Ferguson
25.12.1960 Music Quiz for Christmas Day devised and introduced by Fritz Spiegl. The Panel: Elizabeth Poston, Thurston Dart, Denis Matthews, Jeremy Noble.
16.07.1961 Your Concert Choice. A request programme of records introduced by Denis Matthews (Matthews introduced further programmes in this series on 23.07.1961, 06.08.1961, 20.08.1961
10.01.1962 Brahms: Handel Variations
03.04.1962 Background to Music: The Concerto. First of two illustrated talks by Denis Matthews on Schumann’s Piano Concerto (second talk on 10.04.1962).
17.07.1962 Dussek: Sonata in F minor op.77
15.10.1962 A Russian Salad. Some variations on Chopsticks by Russian composers, introduced and played by Denis Matthews.
20.10.1962 Edwin Fischer. Edwin Fischer was a “musician-pianist” rather than a virtuoso in the accepted sense of the word. In this illustrated talk, Denis Matthews discusses the qualities of mind and imagination that distinguished Fischer’s approach to the keyboard.
20.03.1963 Bach and Bartok (no details).
25.12.1963 Music Quiz. Denis Matthews questions some past masters of the music quiz, including Roger Fiske, Norman Del Mar and Fritz Spiegl.
13.11.1964 BBC Two (TV). Music Forum on Beethoven. A programme of questions and discussion led by H.C. Robbins Landon with Martin Cooper, Charles Groves, Arthur Hutchings and Denis Matthews. Producer: Walter Todds.
19.11.1964 Interpretations on Record. Denis Matthews talks about the interpretation of the Brahms Sonata in F minor op.5 as recorded by Curzon, Fischer, Kempff, Solomon and others (this is listed as a representative example of Matthews’s many contributions to the “Interpretations on Record” series).
04.12.1964 Denis Brain. Denis Matthews introduces records of the great horn-player.
18.12.1964 Grieg: Piano Concerto, with BBC Concert O/Vilem Tausky.
25.12.1964 Music Quiz. Arthur Hutchings questions The Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Boyle, BT, MP, Edward Lockspeiser, Denis Matthews and Fritz Spiegl.
27.12.1964 Bach: English Suite no.2
14.01.1965 Mozart: Piano Concerto K482, with CBSO and BBC Midland Light Orchestra (combined)/Hugo Rignold.
19.01.1965 It Takes All Sorts. A Grand Piano and an Upright. In this first programme of the new series Denis Matthews, well-known concert pianist and Dick Simpson, popular London pub pianist are brought together. The two musicians talk about their life, dash off a tune, and discuss their approach to music and entertainment in general with Tony van den Bergh.
02.04.1965 BBC Two (TV) In Rehearsal. Tonight the French cellist Paul Tortelier is partnered for the first time by the English pianist Denis Matthews. They rehearse the last movement of Beethoven’s Sonata op.69. Producer: Walter Todds
18.08.1965 Violin Sonata (no info), with Ralph Holmes (violin).
13.09.1965 Music Making (no details). Ralph Holmes (violin), Denis Matthews (piano), John Mitchinson (tenor), Ernest Lush (piano), Keith Harvey (cello), Meralyn Knight (piano).
05.10.1965 BBC Two (TV) Music on Two. Workshop: Tonight We Improvise. Deryck Cooke surveys the place of extemporisation and embellishment in Western music with Joan Carlyle, Humphrey Lyttleton and His Band, David Bedford, Cornelius Cardew, Malcolm Williamson, English Chamber Orchestra/Charles Mackerras. Script by Deryck Cooke and Walter Todds. Produced by Walter Todds.
05.12.1965 Beethoven: Diabelli Variations
25.12.1965 Music Quiz, devised and introduced by Denis Matthews. His victims: Alan Blyth, Sir Adrian Boult, Howard Ferguson, Paul Jennings.
20.02.1966 My Favourite Concertos. Denis Matthews plays concertos by Mozart and Beethoven, with London Mozart Players/Harry Blech.
28.02.1966 BBC Two (TV) Music on Two: Workshop. Diabelli Variations, in which Denis Matthews explores and performs the piano variations by Beethoven and others, composed on the simple theme by the publisher Diabelli. Produced by Brian Large.
26.05.1966 Mozart: Sonata in E minor K204 with Ralph Holmes.
27.07.1966 Stravinsky: Duo Concertante, Suite Italienne (4 movements), with Ralph Holmes.
26.12.1966 Mozart: Sonata K497, with Howard Ferguson.
26.12.1966 BBC Two (TV) Music Quiz. A not-too.serious opportunity to match your musical wits, if you have any on Boxing Day, against Joyce Grenfell, Richard Baker and Paul Jennings. Guest musician: Denis Matthews. Chairman: Joseph Cooper. Produced by Walter Todds.
07.04.1967 Mozart: Piano Concerto K482, with Northern Sinfonia/Rudolf Schwarz
08.04.1967 Bach: Preludes and Fugues (Book II) in D, F, Gm; Adagio in G; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue.
11.10.1967 British Piano Music in which each composer introduces his own music is played this week by John Ogdon, piano duets played by Denis Matthews and Brenda McDermott.
18.10.1967 British Piano Music. Music for piano duet introduced by the composers played by Denis Matthews and Brenda McDermott. Ronald Stevenson plays music by Alan Bush, William Wordsworth and Havergal Brian.
28.10.1967 Desert Island Discs.
21.11.1967 Musicians Talking. A series of illustrated conversations introduced by John Amis. This week: Denis Matthews.
25.12.1967 Music Quiz. Gerald Abraham questions Roger Fiske, Norman Del Mar, Denis Matthews and Fritz Spiegl. The programme is devised by Gerald Abraham and Robert Layton.
21.08.1968 Recital Room. Ralph Holmes (violin), Denis Matthews (piano).
21.10.1968 Howard Ferguson. Denis Matthews introduces a programme of Howard Ferguson’s music to celebrate his sixtieth birthday.
25.12.1968 Paraphrase, pastiche and parody: a pot-pourri of provoking piano-pieces by Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Ravel , Casella and Chabrier played by Denis Matthews and Brenda McDermott and introduced by Denis Matthews
12.01.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book I: 1-6 (repeated 02.07.1969)
19.01.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book I: 7-12 (repeated 09.07.1969)
02.02.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book I: 13-18
09.02.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book I: 19-24
23.02.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book II: 1-6
02.03.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book II: 7-12
16.03.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book II: 13-18
23.03.1969 Bach 48 Preludes and Fugues Book II: 19-24 (repeated 20.08.1969)
25.03.1969 A discussion on Beethoven’s use of tonality between Denis Matthews and Robert Simpson who have previously given separate talks in the series.
17.06.1969 BBC One (TV) Mrs. Brown and the Great Composers. A report by Peter Dorling on the remarkable case of Mrs. Rosemary Brown …. Taking part: Richard Rodney Bennett, Denis Matthews, Hepzibah Menuhin, Dr. Malcolm Troup.
19.07.1969 BBC Two (TV) Free for All. On the Arts: 2. Pop. In which 150 people of varied ages and opinions look at, listen to and freely discuss the music of Pete Brown and his Battered Ornaments. After the discussion their manager Andrew King gives his reactions to some of the comments made. Somewhere among the audience: Hans Keller, Jonathan King, Humphrey Lyttelton, Manfred Mann, Denis Matthews, John Peel. Referee: Paddy Feeny. Interviewer: Mike Raven. Produced by John King.
16.10.1969 Music for Two Pianists. Schubert: Marches militaires; Brahms: Variations on a theme of Schumann; Mendelssohn: Allegro brilliant, with Brenda McDermott
18.11.1969 Mozart: Piano Concerto K453, with SNO/Alexander Gibson.
10.04.1970 Mozart: Piano Concerto K456, with BBC Scottish SO/Brian Priestman.
14.03.1970 Grieg: Piano Concerto, with BBC Concert O/Brian Priestman.
22.04.1970 Beethoven: Sonata op.12/3; Prokofief: Sonata 1, with Ralph Holmes
10.06.1970 Rubbra: Piano Concerto, with RPO/Bernard Keeffe
23.08.1970 BBC Two (TV) Music on 2: Workshop. Beethoven at Work. Denis Matthews explores the Beethoven Sketchbooks.
18.10.1970 Busoni: Sonata no.1, with Ralph Holmes (violin)
13.11.1970 Haydn: Sonata in E (Haydn Society no.31); Berkeley: Sonata
01.12.1970 Kenneth Alwyn introduces and conducts Lights of London, a panorama of London’s music, past and present, with the BBC Concert O, Denis Matthews and BBC Chorus (no info on pieces played).
22.10.1971 Schumann: Piano Quintet, with Alberni String Quartet.
28.01.1972 Woman’s Hour. Northern Guest of the Week: Denis Matthews.
24.02.1972 Beethoven: Sonatas op.54, op.78 and op.111
13.04.1972 Beethoven: Piano Concerto 3, with Ulster O/Edgar Cosma.
12.05.1972 The Faculty of Music. Professors of Music discuss musical education. Professor Denis Matthews, University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Knowing and Doing.
25.12.1972 Music Quiz. Norman Del Mar, Barrie Iliffe, Denis Matthews and Robin Ray question each other while Bryan Magee holds the ring.
28.12.1972 Mozart: Sonata K332 (recorded in the University Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne on 18.06.1972).
01.02.1973 Schumann: Piano Quintet, with Alberni String Quartet.
08.04.1973 Your Concert Choice. Denis Matthews presents listeners’ requests and discusses, by telephone, the ideas behind their choice (further programmes 29.04.1973, 06.05.1973, 13.05.1973, 24.06.1973, 11.09.1973, 02.12.1973, 06.01.1974, 13.01.1974)
23.01.1974 Music in Question. Antony Hopkins poses questions about music to Professor Denis Matthews, Yuval Zaliouk and Christopher Seaman.
02.04.1975 Celebration. Benno Moiseiwitch. Denis Matthews recalls the career and the art of the great concert pianist and noted bon viveur.
25.12.1976 Music Quiz. Barrie Iliffe and Denis Matthews devise the questions, while John Amis, John Boulton Smith, John Warrack and Colin Wilson find the answers.
20.01.1977 Brahms: Piano Quintet, with Aeolian Quartet (recorded 1976 in King’s Hall, University of Newcastle).
27.01.1977 Dvořák: Piano Quintet, with Aeolian Quartet.
02.09.1977 Beethoven: Sonata op.110; Ravel: Sonatine; Rawsthorne: 4 Bagatelles.
26.12.1977 Music Quiz. This year’s quiz takes the form of a musical variant of Call My Bluff. Denis Matthews devises the questions while Ronald Crighton, James Gibb, Philip Hope-Wallace, Bryan Magee, Virginia Pleasants and Colin Wilson find the answers.
25.12.1979 Music Quiz. Devised by Denis Matthews who poses questions to John Amis, James Gibb, Barrie Iliffe, Simon Rattle and John Warrack.
29.04.1980 The Piano Music of Busoni. 5th of 14 programmes compiled and introduced by Ronald Stevenson. Finnish Ballad op.33b/5 (solo piano), Finnish Folksongs op.27 (piano duet), Indian Diary (solo piano). Denis Matthews, Brenda McDermott (no indication who plays the solo works).
29.10.1983 Interpretations on Record. Denis Matthews, professor of Music in the University of Newcastle, talks about Beethoven’s Sonata op.111, as recorded by Arrau, Ashkenazy, Barenboim, Bishop Kovacevich, Brendel, Edwin Fischer, Kempff, Michelangeli, Pollini, Schnabel, Solomon and others.
Contributions to Music Weekly on 27.04.1986, 28.09.1986, 30.11.1986
Interval talks on Brahms’s Piano Quartets on 27 & 29.12.1988.
07.03.1989 Denis Matthews (1919-1988). Howard Ferguson presents the second of two programmes of performances and talks by the great pianist, writer and lecturer who died last year.
31.12.1989 In Elysian Fields. A sequence … which recalls the passing this year of a galaxy of musicians whose art has been immortalised by the gramophone: Denis Matthews, Martti Talvela, Vladimir Horowitz, Zinka Milanov, John Ogdon, Gyorgy Lehel, Alan Civil, Sir John Pritchard, Anton Dermota, Herbert von Karajan among others.

Appendix 2: Prom Performances
Information from the BBC Prom Archive site.



Bach: Concerto for 4 pianos

Sir Henry Wood

Iris Loveridge, Ross Pratt,
Susan Sivko


Bach: Concerto for 4 pianos

Sir Henry Wood

Iris Loveridge, Jean Gilbert,
Frank Thomas


Mozart: Piano Concerto K466

Basil Cameron



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 3

Basil Cameron



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 3

Sir Adrian Boult



Brahms: Piano Concerto 2

Basil Cameron



Mozart: Piano Concerto K.595

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 1

Stanford Robinson



Mozart: Piano Concerto K488

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 5

Sir Adrian Boult



Mozart: Piano Concerto K595

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Mozart: Piano Concerto K488

Basil Cameron



Bach: Piano Concerto in Fm

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Mozart: Piano Concerto K453

Basil Cameron



Mozart: Piano Concerto K449

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Mozart: Piano Concerto K491

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Beethoven: Triple Concerto

Sir Malcolm Sargent

Thomas Matthews,
John Shinebourne


Mozart: Piano Concerto K488

Sir Adrian Boult



Schumann: Piano Concerto

Sir Adrian Boult



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 5

Sir John Barbirolli



Mozart: Piano Concerto K449

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Mozart: Piano Concerto K488

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Beethoven: Piano Concerto no.4
Rubbra: Piano Concerto

Sir Malcolm Sargent

Proms première


Bach: Piano Concerto in Fm
Bach: Brandenburg 5

Sir Malcolm Sargent

Paul Beard,
Douglas Whittaker


Mozart: Piano Concerto K466

Sir Adrian Boult



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 4
Rawsthorne: Piano Concerto 2

Sir Malcolm Sargent



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 4

Basil Cameron



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 3

Basil Cameron



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 2

Basil Cameron



Beethoven: Piano Concerto 2

Norman Del Mar


Appendix 3: Listings in Gray Catalogue
Source: CHARM

1941.07.22 Bach English Suite no.2 Columbia unissued
1942.01.27 Bach English Suite no.2 Columbia unissued
1942.09.16 Mozart Fantasia and Fugue in C Columbia DX1095
1942.09.16 Schubert Moment Musicaux 2 & 4 Columbia unissued
1942.12.14 Rawsthorne 4 Bagatelles unissued
1942.12.14 Rawsthorne 4 Bagatelles 2EA 9961
1943.04.17 Mozart Sonata in Am K310 Columbia DX1114-5
1944.02.23 Beethoven Sonata op.14/2 Columbia unissued
1944.02.25 Beethoven Sonata op.109 Columbia unissued
1944.07.02 Beethoven Clarinet Trio Kell A Pini Columbia SX1164-6
1944.07.31 Bach Adagio in G Columbia DX1166
1944.08.28 Mozart: Concerto K488 Liverpool PO/Weldon Columbia DX1167-9
1945.06.22 Field Nocturne in E major Columbia DX1228
1945.06.22 Field Nocturne in E minor Columbia DX1228
1945.06.23 Beethoven Sonata op.14/2 Columbia unissued
1946.05.15 Beethoven Sonata op.109 Columbia DX1509-11
1946.08.30 Purcell Suite in Cm Columbia DX1511
1946.10.22 Haydn Sonata in E flat Columbia DX1734-5
1947.04.24 Beethoven Concerto 5 PO/Susskind Columbia DX1462-6
1947.06.11 Bach English Suite no.2 Columbia
1947.11.20 Brahms Horn Trio Grumiaux Brain Unissued
1949.04.25 Bach Prelude and Fugue in E flat m Bk.1 Columbia DX1635
1949.04.25 Beethoven Rondo op.51/2 DX1595
1949.04.25 Haydn Fantasia in C Columbia DB2545 (reviewed on “Recent Records”, BBC Home Service 04.09.1949.
1949.04.25 Haydn Sonata in E Columbia DX1655
1949.04.29 Brahms Handel variations Columbia unissued
1950.04.19 Bach Prelude & Fugue in C (no identification)
1950.04.19 Bach Prelude & Fugue in G (no identification)
1950.04.19 Bach Prelude & Fugue in B (no identification)
1950.04.19 Bach Prelude & Fugue in D m (no identification)
1951.04.23 Bach Prelude & Fugue in C Book I Columbia
1951.04.23 Bach Prelude & Fugue in G Book II Columbia
1951.04.24 Mozart Sonata in A m
1951.04.28 Beethoven Sonata op.27/1 first part
1951.05.07 Bach Prelude & Fugue in F (no identification)
1951.05.07 Mozart Sonata in A m
1951.08.15 Beethoven Variations in C m Columbia DX1060-1
1951.08.15 Beethoven Bagatelle op.119/11 Columbia DX1061
1951.08.15 Beethoven Bagatelle op.119/1 Columbia DX1061
(some of these entries give 1941 but the number is always the same) (1941 may be correct)
1952.02.24 Bach Chromatic fantasy & Fugue DX8403 LX1476/DX8404 LX1862
1952.02.24 Bach Concerto Italiano Columbia unissued
1952.02.24 Mendelssohn 3 Fantaisies op.16 Columbia unissued
1952.02.24 Sibelius Sonatina no.3 Columbia unissued
1953.01.01 Bach Prelude & Fugue in C (no identification) DX8403
1953.01.05 Beethoven: Sonata op.53 Waldstein Columbia SX1029
1953.01.07 Beethoven Sonata op.57 Appassionata Columbia SX 1023
1953.01.08 Beethoven Sonata op.28 Pastoral Columbia SX 1021
1953.01.15 Mozart Concerto K453 LMP/Blech
1953.02.20 Beethoven Sonata op.14/2 Columbia SX 1023
1953.03.05 Beethoven Sonata op.53 Waldstein Columbia 33SX1021
1953.03.06 Beethoven Sonata op.57 Appassionata Columbia SX1023
1953.03.08 Beethoven Sonata op.28 Pastoral SX 1021
1954.03.22 Mozart Concerto K449 PO/Schwarz SX1031
1954.03.23 Mozart: Concerto K488 PO/Schwarz S1039
1954.04.01 Mozart: Concerto K595 PO/Schwarz SX1044
1954.05.10 Beethoven Sonata op.31/2 “Tempesta”
1954.05.10 Mendelssohn: Andante in E op.16/3 Columbia
1954.05.10 Mendelssohn Fantaisie in A m op.16/1 Columbia 33CX1479
(This was the number of Gieseking’s selection of Mendelssohn Songs without Words)
1954.05.10 Mendelssohn Scherzo in E m op.16/2 Columbia 33CX1751/SAX2398
(These were the numbers of Klemperer’s Mendelssohn 4/Schumann 4)
1954.06.01 Beethoven Sonata op.7
1954.06.02 Mendelssohn 3 Fantaisies op.16
1954.06.02 Brahms 4 Klavierstücke
1954.06.28 Beethoven Diabelli Variations
1955.06.29 Mozart Concerto K503 LMP/Blech Columbia SX1044
1958.06.01 Schubert: Trout Quintet. Vienna Konzerthaus Quartett Vanguard SRV151
1958.10.14 Beethoven 11 Bagatelles op.119 NY Vanguard VSD2018
1958.10.15 Beethoven 7 Bagatelles op.33 NY Vanguard VSD2018
1958.10.16 Beethoven Variations op.34 NY Vanguard VSD 2017
1958.10.16 Beethoven Eroica variations op.35 NY Vanguard VSD2017
1958.10.17 Beethoven Variations in C m NY Vanguard VSD2017

Appendix 4: Listings in WERM I
WERM (the World Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music) has no artist index, so this list is based on a check for the presence of recordings known to exist. Since Gray’s catalogue is not always clear over what was issued, I give this list as a useful cross-reference.

Bach: Adagio (arr. from Violin Sonata 3) C.DX 1166
Beethoven: Bagatelles op.119/1 & 11 C.DX 1061
Beethoven: Clarinet Trio (with Reginald Kell, Anthony Pini) C.DX 1164/6
Beethoven: Horn Sonata (with Dennis Brain) C.DX 1152/3
Beethoven: Rondo op.51/2 C.DX 1595
Beethoven: Piano Concerto 5 “Emperor” (with Philharmonia O/Walter Susskind) C.DX 1462/6
Beethoven: Sonata op.109 D.DX 1509/11
Beethoven: Variations in C minor C.DX 1060/1
Field: Nocturne in E minor/Rondo “Le Midi” C. DX 1228
Haydn: Fantasia in C C.DB 2545
Haydn: Sonata no.49 in E flat C.DX 1374/5
Mozart: Fantasia and Fugue in C K394 C.DX 1095
Mozart: Sonata in A minor K310 C. DX 1114/5
Purcell: Suite no.2 in G minor C. DX 1511
Rawsthorne: Bagatelles G. C.3324

Appendix 5: Listings in WERM 2

Bach: 3-Piano Concerto in C (with E. Fischer, R. Smith, Philharmonia) Vic. LHMV 1004

Appendix 6: Listings in WERM 3

Bach: Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue/Concerto Italiano C. 51004
Bach: 3-Piano Concerto in C (with E. Fischer, R. Smith, Philharmonia) G. ALP 1103
Beethoven: Sonata op.28/Sonata op.53 C. SX 1021
Beethoven: Sonata op.14/2/Sonata op.57 C. SX 1023
Mozart: Piano Concerto K.414/Piano Concerto K.449 Philharmonia/Schwarz C. SX 1031
Mozart: Piano Concerto K.488 Philharmonia/Schwarz C. S 1039
Mozart: Piano Concerto K.595 Philharmonia/Schwarz C. S 1032



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount