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

Professor Matthew Riley

Department of Music
Professor 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 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)


My research and teaching concern the analysis and interpretation of Western art music of the two centuries to 1945 (broadly 'Classical' and 'Romantic'). I am especially interested in syntactical conventions and traditions and in modes of musical literacy. In terms of repertory I have focused on instrumental music of the late eighteenth century, British music of the early twentieth century, and cultural nationalism in music. I currently chair the Editorial Board of the journal Music Analysis. I teach courses on music analysis, composition in eighteenth-century styles, piano repertory and cultural nationalism in music.


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 welcome PhD project proposals on aspects of western art music from analytical or historical perspectives, on analysis of popular music genres, and on performance practice (primarily piano). I currently supervise PhD projects on Tchaikovksy, Michael Tippett, Louis Vierne and British string quartets. I have supervised past postgraduate research projects on Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Kodály, Turina, Brazilian piano music and British Wagnerism.

Find out more - our Music postgraduate study  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Recent developments in music theory have thrown the field of music analysis wide open and, as I see it, there is much elementary work even on Western art music that has yet to be undertaken. My interests in analysis lie in so-called ‘schemata’ and formal functions, which lead to an emphasis on a craft-based understanding of compositional activity. I tend to view canonic and non-canonic or popular repertories through the same lens.

The Viennese Minor-Key Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart (Oxford University Press, 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.

Nation and Classical Music: From Handel to Copland (Boydell, 2016) is a cross-disciplinary study of music and cultural nationalism from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, co-authored with the late Anthony D. Smith, formerly Professor of Nationalism and Ethnicity at the London School of Economics and one of the leading scholars of nationalism of the last century.

I am currently writing a monograph entitled English Diatonic Music 1887–1955, which returns to musically literate modes of understanding and continuous traditions of interpretation. The book introduces schemata analysis to the English repertory and discusses the music of Hubert Parry, Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Ivor Gurney, Gerald Finzi, William Walton and Michael Tippett, amongst others.

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.


Recent publications


Smith, AD, Riley, M 2021, Nacionalismo y música clásica: De Händel a Copland. translated by Patrick Alfaya , Javier Alfaya McShane, Alianza, Madrid. <>

Riley, M & Smith, AD 2016, Nation and Classical Music: From Handel to Copland. Music in society and culture, Boydell & Brewer, Woodbridge. <>

Riley, M 2014, The Viennese Minor-Key Symphony in the Age of Haydn and Mozart. Oxford University Press.

Riley, M (ed.) 2010, British Music and Modernism 1895–1960. Ashgate.


Riley, M 2018, 'Functional Analysis at the fin-de-siècle: Genre, Compositional Process and the Demonic in the Rondo of Elgar’s Second Symphony', Music Analysis, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 310-338.

Riley, M 2015, 'The Sonata Principle Reformulated for Haydn Post-1770 and a Typology of his Recapitulatory Strategies', Journal of the Royal Musical Association, vol. 140, no. 1, pp. 1–39.

Riley, M 2011, 'Haydn's Missing Middles', Music Analysis, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 37-57.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Riley, M 2019, Style, Character and Revelation in Parry’s Fourth Symphony. in S Collins (ed.), Music and Victorian Liberalism: Composing the Liberal Subject. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 129-150.

Riley, M 2018, Clementi's Minor-Mode Keyboard Music and the Rhetoric of 'Ancient Style'. in L Levi Sala & RS MacDonald (eds), Muzio Clementi and British Musical Culture: Sources, Performance Practice and Style. Routledge.


Riley, M 2023, Analyzing the Festival Choral Commission: Formal Waves and Philosophical Pessimism in Elgar's The Music Makers. in Formenlehre and New Formalism: Studies on Fin-de-Siècle Musical Form. Peeters, Leuven.

Riley, M 2023, Elgar and the Symphony in Britain before World War I: Contexts for the 'Looked-for Genius'. in N Jones (ed.), The Symphony in Britain and Ireland since 1900: A Critical History. Cambridge University Press.

Riley, M 2023, Mourning and Subjectivity in Oration. in J Clinch (ed.), Frank Bridge: New Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Riley, M 2013, E.T.A.Hoffmann beyond the “Paradigm Shift”: Music and Irony in the Novellas 1815–1819. in P Weliver & K Ellis (eds), Words and Notes in the Long Nineteenth Century. Boydell & Brewer, pp. 119-144.

Riley, M & Riley, M 2010, Chapter 1, Liberal Critics and Modern Music in the Post-Victorian Age. in British Music and Modernism 1895-1960.

Riley, M & Riley, M 2010, Chapter 12, Music for the Machines of the Future: H.G. Wells, Arthur Bliss and Things to Come (1936). in British Music and Modernism 1895-1960.

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