Dr Matthew Riley BA, (Oxon; Mathematics), MMus PhD (London)

Reader in Music

Department of Music


Contact details

Bramall Music Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


My scholarly interests lie in the analysis and criticism of Western art music from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. I am fascinated by all the great composers of this era, and my aim is to understand their compositional techniques and strategies and their music's cultural significance. I have a special interest in the music of Edward Elgar, the University's first Professor of Music, whose legacy here is still felt.


LRSM Piano Performance (1995)

BA Mathematics, St Catherine's College, Oxford (1996)

MMus Royal Holloway, University of London (1997)

PhD Royal Holloway, University of London (2000)


The academic study of music began for me at postgraduate level. My PhD was on the concept of Aufmerksamkeit (attentiveness) in German writings on music of the late eighteenth century. In a revised version it later became my first monograph. For two years I held a Leverhulme Special Research Fellowship at Royal Holloway before moving to Birmingham as a lecturer in 2003. My work on Edward Elgar, the first Professor of Music at Birmingham, resulted in my second monograph. In 2005 I led the celebrations of the centenary of Elgar's appointment with a three-day international conference and an exhibition of original documents in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts on the theme of Elgar and Birmingham. As a pianist I hold the LRSM, for which my recital programme included Haydn's Sonata in E flat Hob. XVI/52 and Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in F minor. I have given public performances of Schumann's Piano Concerto and music by Bach (the 6-part ricercare from the Musical Offering), Chopin, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Janáček and Webern.


In 2008 I introduced the taught MA in Music, of which I am now Programme Convenor. I have pushed forward curriculum reform and the introduction of new core modules at Final-year undergraduate level and, more recently, at first- and second-year levels. I have taught undergraduate courses on Classical form, Romantic harmony, first-year set works and composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Elgar. I convene the MA option module 'British Music Studies'.

Postgraduate supervision

 I have supervised postgraduate research on composers such as Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms.


I have published widely on late eighteenth-century music and aesthetics (recently focusing on Haydn's instrumental music), and twentieth-century British music and culture (especially Elgar). In 2014 my third monograph, on Viennese minor-key symphonies, will be published. I am currently working on a cross-disiplinary, jointly-authored monograph on music and nationalism from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.

My books are published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Ashgate. Two of them have been separately reviewed in Journal of the American Musicological Society and one in the Times Literary Supplement. One was the sole subject of a review-article in Music & Letters. My work has also received reviews in the Musical Times (twice), Music & Letters (twice), Current Musicology, Early Music, German Studies Review, Modernism/Modernity, Twentieth-Century MusicJournal of the Royal Musical Association, Music Research Forum and Elgar Society Journal.

I have given invited research presentations at the Institute for Historical Resarch, the Conference of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Jesus College Oxford, Durham University,  Cardiff University, University College Dublin, Queen's University Belfast, the University of Huddersfield, the University of Surrey and Anglia Polytechnic University.

I am a member of the Steering Committee for the University of Birmingham's Centre for the Study of Cultural Modernity.

Other activities

I have been a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Music Analysis since 2001. For seven years I was a member of the Executive Committee of the Society for Music Analysis.


Authored books

  • The Viennese Minor-Key Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart. Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2014.
  • Edward Elgar and the Nostalgic Imagination. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Musical Listening in the German Enlightenment: Attention, Wonder and Astonishment. Ashgate, 2004.

Edited books

  • British Music and Modernism 1895–1960. Ashgate, 2010.

Articles in academic journals

  • ‘Haydn's Missing Middles’. Music Analysis 30/1 (2011), 37–57.
  • ‘Hermeneutics and the New Formenlehre: An Interpretation of Haydn’s “Oxford” Symphony, First Movement’. Eighteenth-Century Music 7/2 (2010), 199–219.
  • ‘Sonata Principles’ [Review article of James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory]. Music & Letters 89/4 (2008), 590–8.
  • ‘Edward Elgar’s Lecture on Mozart’s Symphony in G Minor K. 550’. Mozart Jahrbuch 2005 (2006), 131–49.
  • ‘The “Harmonic Major” Mode in Nineteenth-Century Theory and Practice’. Music Analysis 23/1 (2004), 1–26.
  • ‘Johann Nikolaus Forkel on the Listening Practices of “Kenner” and “Liebhaber”’. Music & Letters 84/3 (2003), 414–33.
  • ‘Ernst Kurth’s Bach: Musical Linearity and Expressionist Aesthetics’. Theoria: Historical Aspects of Music Theory 10 (2003), 69–103.
  • ‘Rustling Reeds and Lofty Pines: Elgar and the Music of Nature’. 19th-Century Music 26/2 (2002), 155–77.
  • ‘Straying from Nature: The Labyrinthine Harmonic Theory of Diderot and Bemetzrieder’s Leçons de clavecin (1771)’. Journal of Musicology 19/1 (2002), 3–38.
  • ‘Civilising the Savage: Johann Georg Sulzer and the “Aesthetic Force” of Music’. Journal of the Royal Musical Association 127/1 (2002), 1–22.

Essays in collections

  • ‘ETA Hoffmann Beyond the “Paradigm Shift”: Music and Irony in the Novellas 1815–1819’. In Katharine Ellis and Phyllis Weliver (eds.), Words and Notes in the Long Nineteenth Century. Woodbridge: Boydell 2013, 119–43.
  • ‘Liberal Critics and Modern Music in the Post-Victorian Age’. In Matthew Riley (ed.), British Music and Modernism 1895–1960. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010, 13–30.
  • ‘Music for the Machines of the Future: H. G. Wells, Arthur Bliss and Things to Come (1936)’. In Matthew Riley (ed.), British Music and Modernism 1895–1960. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010, 249–68.
  • ‘Heroic Melancholy: Elgar’s Inflected Diatonicism’. In J. P. E. Harper-Scott and Julian Rushton (eds.), Elgar Studies. Cambridge Unviersity Press, 2007, 284–307.
  • Elgar the Escapist?’. In Byron Adams (ed.), Edward Elgar and his World. Princeton University Press, 2007, 39–57.

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