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

Dr Matthew Riley

Department of Music
Reader in 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 aim to preserve and enhance literacy in the traditions of classical music so that people can make sense of this extraordinary heritage. Through music analysis and cultural history I try to understand the techniques and strategies of the leading composers of the tradition and the significance of their work. 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 the undergraduate curriculum I teach year-group modules on analysis (Year II) and the history of the Classical period (Year I). I have led option modules on topics including Romantic piano music; the history of the symphony; Mozart in Vienna; nineteenth-century harmony; Classical form; Beethoven’s late style; Schubert’s instrumental music; music, nations and nationalism; and Elgar’s choral and orchestral music. I introduced a taught MA in Music in 2008, and today I convene the plenary module Music Research Colloquium and the module British Music Studies, and contribute seminars to several other MA modules.

Postgraduate supervision

I currently supervise PhD projects on Tippett, British Wagnerism and Kodály. I have supervised research Masters dissertations on Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms and Turina.



My research concerns music analysis, cultural nationalism in music, and British music of the early twentieth century. My third monograph, The Viennese Minor-Key Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart (OUP, 2014), is an extended analytical study of music by Haydn, Mozart and their Austrian and Bohemian contemporaries. It was awarded the Emerson Prize of the Mozart Society of America for the best book on Mozart in English of the two previous calendar years. My latest book, Nation and Classical Music: From Handel to Copland (forthcoming, 2017) is a cross-disciplinary study of music and cultural nationalism from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, co-authored with Professor Anthony D. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Nationalism and Ethnicity at the London School of Economics.

My analytical work has recently focused on Haydn's instrumental music, in a series of journal articles as well as two chapters in the book on minor-key symphonies. In this work I am interested in the adaptation and application of the new theories of musical form that have emerged from North American in recent years.

I am currently planning a monograph on ‘national music’ in Britain which aims to redefine the field by returning to musically literate modes of understanding and continuous traditions of interpretation, developing them analytically and critically. This book will offer a corrective to what seems to me the exaggerated contextualism and constructivism prevalent in current scholarship in music history and cultural nationalism in music. The book will discuss the music of Hubert Parry, Edward Elgar, Frederick Delius, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, Ivor Gurney and Gerald Finzi, amongst others.

My books are published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Ashgate and Boydell &Brewer (dual imprint with University of Rochester Press). 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 Musical Times (twice), Music & Letters (twice), Eighteenth-Century Music (twice), Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Early Music, Current Musicology, Twentieth-Century Music, Music Theory Online, Ad Parnassum, Journal of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, German Studies Review, Modernism/Modernity, Music Research Forum and Elgar Society Journal.

I have given invited research presentations at the Institute for Historical Research, 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 support the research of the Music Department as its Research Lead and Impact Lead and of the School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music as Head of Postgraduate Studies (Research).

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

  • Nation and Classical Music: From Handel to Copland. Co-authored with Anthony D. Smith. Forthcoming, Boydell & Brewer, 2017.
  • The Viennese Minor-Key Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart. Oxford University Press, 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

  • ‘The Sonata Principle Reformulated for Haydn Post-1770 and a Typology of his Recapitulatory Strategies’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 140/1 (2015), 1–39.
  • ‘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.