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 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 the undergraduate curriculum I teach year-group modules on analysis (Year II) and the history of the Classical period (Year I). I run option modules on topics such as Mozart in Vienna; Beethoven’s late style; Schubert’s instrumental music; the history of the symphony; music, nations and nationalism; Elgar’s choral and orchestral music; and Chopin and his legacy. 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.

Postgraduate supervision

I currently co-supervise a PhD on British Wagnerism. In the past I have supervised postgraduate research on analytical topics in Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms.


My research concerns music analysis, especially of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century repertories (recently focusing on Haydn's instrumental music); twentieth-century British music and culture (especially Elgar); and, increasingly, cultural nationalism in music. My third monograph, on Viennese minor-key symphonies, was published in 2014. I am currently working on a cross-disciplinary, 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 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 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

  • 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 Association140/1 (2015), 1–39.
  • ‘Haydn's Missing Middles’. Music Analysis30/1 (2011), 37–57.
  • ‘Hermeneutics and the New Formenlehre: An Interpretation of Haydn’s “Oxford” Symphony, First Movement’. Eighteenth-Century Music7/2 (2010), 199–219.
  • ‘Sonata Principles’ [Review article of James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory]. Music & Letters89/4 (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 Analysis23/1 (2004), 1–26.
  • ‘Johann Nikolaus Forkel on the Listening Practices of “Kenner” and “Liebhaber”’. Music & Letters84/3 (2003), 414–33.
  • ‘Ernst Kurth’s Bach: Musical Linearity and Expressionist Aesthetics’. Theoria: Historical Aspects of Music Theory10 (2003), 69–103.
  • ‘Rustling Reeds and Lofty Pines: Elgar and the Music of Nature’. 19th-Century Music26/2 (2002), 155–77.
  • ‘Straying from Nature: The Labyrinthine Harmonic Theory of Diderot and Bemetzrieder’s Leçons de clavecin(1771)’. Journal of Musicology19/1 (2002), 3–38.
  • ‘Civilising the Savage: Johann Georg Sulzer and the “Aesthetic Force” of Music’. Journal of the Royal Musical Association127/1 (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.