James Matheson

  • Photo Credit: Jamie Arrigo, 2017

    New York-based composer James Matheson is widely regarded as one of the most distinctive, vital, and creative musical voices of his generation. Among his commissions are works for the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Chicago and Albany Symphony Orchestras, Carnegie Hall, and the St. Lawrence and Borromeo String Quartets. The American Academy of Arts and Letters honored him in December, 2011 with the Charles Ives Living.

    A 2016 release from Yarlung Records featured three major Matheson works: Violin Concerto (Baird Dodge, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Esa-Pekka Salonen); Times Alone, (soprano Laura Strickling and pianist Thomas Sauer); and String Quartet (Color Field Quartet).

    Recent commissions include a new work for large orchestra, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, to be premiered February 24th, 25th and 26th, 2017; Violin Concerto, co-commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; True South, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic; The Age of Air, for two shakuhachi and chamber orchestra, co-commissioned by Kyo-Shin-An Arts and River Oaks Chamber Orchestra for soloists James Schlefer and Akihito Obama; String Quartet (2014), commissioned by Justus and Elizabeth Schlichting for the St. Lawrence String Quartet; Times Alone (2013), commissioned by soprano Kiera Duffy, Cretic Variations (2013), commissioned by pianist Nadia Shpachenko, and Peace Talks (2014), commissioned by Swarthmore College for its Sesquicentennial Celebration. Other recent projects include new works for violinist Jennifer Koh, pianist Bruce Levingston and pianist Nadia Schpachenko.

    From 2009 to 2015 James served as Director of the the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s innovative Composer Fellowship Program. In addition to the Ives Living award, Matheson has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the Bogliasco and Sage Foundations, ASCAP, and the Robbins Prize. From 2005-2007, Matheson was Executive Director of the MATA Festival of New Music in New York, which commissions and performs the work of young composers who are making their entry into professional musical life. Matheson has held residencies at Yaddo and the Liguria Study Center, and has been a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    114-41854 Capriccio
    For Solo Violin
    2:00 Violin
    110-41801 Cretic Variations
    For Piano
    14:00 Piano
    110-41784 Pound
    For Solo Piano
    12:00 Piano
    114-41416 La Seine
    For English Horn
    4:00 English Horn
    114-41417 La Seine
    For Alto Saxophone
    4:00 Alto Saxophone
    Chamber Ensemble
    114-41414 The Anatomy Of Melancholy
    16:00 Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano
    114-41411 Borromean Rings
    Quintet for Piano and String Quartet
    20:00 Piano Quintet
    110-41806 Bagatelle
    For 3 Pianos, 12 Hands
    4:30 Piano Ensemble
    114-41419 Buzz
    6:30 Mixed Quartet
    114-41418 Contact
    13:00 Alto Saxophone, Piano
    114-41412 Fault Lines
    For Violin, Viola, Violoncello, and Piano
    10:00 Piano Quartet
    110-41785 On Spaces
    For Piano, Six Hands
    4:00 Piano Ensemble
    114-41421 Pull
    Alto Saxophone and Piano
    6:00 Alto Saxophone with Piano
    114-41427 Quartet
    For Soprano Saxophone and Strings
    11:00 Small Mixed Ensemble (2-9 Instruments)
    114-41413 Quartet for Oboe and Strings
    11:00 Oboe Quartet
    114-41415 Sonata
    For Violin and Piano
    16:00 Violin with Piano
    111-40259 Songs Of Desire, Love And Loss
    For Soprano And Chamber Ensemble
    18:00 Voice and Instrument
    114-41420 Spin
    For String Quartet
    13:00 String Quartet
    114-41653 String Quartet
    33:00 String Quartet
    111-40246 Times Alone
    For Soprano and Piano
    17:00 Soprano, Piano
    114-41585 Violin Concerto
    Violin and Piano Reduction
    25:00 Violin, Piano
    17394 Colonnade
    for Chamber Orchestra
    18:00 Fl. Ob. Cl. Bsn. Hn. Hp. Vibe. 2Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
    17468 Four Fanfares (With Assorted Nightmares)
    for Orchestra
    1:30 3(Picc.) 3 3 3(Cbsn). – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Cel. Hp. Str.
    17396 River, River, River
    for Orchestra
    10:00 3(2 dbl. Picc., 3 dbl .A.Fl.) 3(E.H.) 3(dbl.B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Hp. Pno./Cel. 3Perc. Str.
    116-40043 Sharp Objects
    For String Orchestra
    5:00 String Orchestra
    17438 True South
    For Orchestra
    20:00 2 0 2 2 – 2 1 1 0; 2Perc. Hp. Pno.(Cel.) Str.
    17397 Umbras and Illuminations
    For Orchestra
    20:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Str.
    23604 Unchained
    for Orchestra
    12:00 3(2nd dbl. A.Fl.; 3rd dbl. Picc.) 3(dbl. E.H.) 3(2nd dbl. Eb Cl.)3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(dbl. Cel.) Hp. Str.
    Orchestra w/ Soloist(s)
    17393 The Paces
    Concerto for Piano and Chamber Ensemble
    18:30 Solo Pno.; 1 1(dbl. E.H.) 2(dbl.EbCl.; B.Cl.) 0 – 0 0 0 0; Perc. Str.(Cb. with C extension)
    17392 Sleep
    Concerto for Violin and Mixed Ensemble of Fourteen Players
    25:00 Solo Violin; 1(dbl. Picc.) 1 1(dbl.E(Cl.) 1 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Str.(2Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.)
    17500 Violin Concerto
    24:00 Solo Vln.; 3(3rd dbl. Picc.1; 2nd dbl. Picc.2) 3(dbl. E.H.) 3(2nd dbl. Eb Cl.; 3rd dbl .B.Cl.) 3(dbl. Cbsn.) – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(dbl. Cel.) Hp. Str.
    Band / Wind Ensemble
    17395 Burn
    for Wind Ensemble
    8:30 Wind Ensemble: 2Picc. 3Fl. 2Ob. E.H. EbCl. 3Cl. B.Cl. Cb.Cl. 2Bsn. 4Sax.(SATB) 4Hn. 3Tpt. 2Tbn. B.Tbn. Euph. Tu. 2Cb. Pno. Timp. 5Perc.]

  • The hypnotic power of this music arises from a moment-to-moment drama that fascinates the mind and creates its own unpredictable structure.
    –Jonathan Saville, San Diego Reader

    James Matheson is simply one of the best of his generation of American composers. He speaks in a clear, humane, deeply expressive voice and with polished, elegant technique.
    –Steven Stucky,

    James Matheson is ignoring style labels and writing synthetic, satisfying music that avoids the glib theatricality of postmodernism.
    –The New Yorker

    Matheson is formidable in talent and promise.
    –Jonathan Saville, San Diego Reader

    Matheson’s music seems to be a breakthrough, an articulate new voice. What I like best is how fresh and independent it comes across.
    –John Harbison, MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

    Matheson is an exceptionally talented composer of vital music. It is brilliant really, and it has many different and pleasing aspects to it despite the remarkable energy that drives it along.
    –Peter Lieberson, Grawemeyer Award-winning composer

    All of Matheson’s works are lively, fresh, and bracing in their gestures, vivid in their timbres, intriguingly unpredictable in their shapes, and characterized by an intense, even obsessive, concentration on their central musical ideas.
    –Gerald Levinson,

    The music of James Matheson is free of academic sterility and postmodern irony in equal measures. He forgoes those well-worn refuges in favor of an eloquent language capable of deep feeling and genuine surprise: a language founded in some sense on tradition, but tradition constantly reinvented. Matheson is not afraid of beauty. His masterly play of consonance and dissonance affords him a broadly humane expression that has put him in the forefront of his generation.
    –Award Citation, The American Academy of Arts and Letters

    Joined by clarinetist Garrick Zoeter, the group launched into “The Anatomy of Melancholy” by James Matheson, which they premiered two days ago in Chicago. The piece, written for the group, had a surprisingly beautiful and eerie feel. The composer created a delightful effect by having the violin or cello pluck the same notes at the same time as Huebner hit the keys – creating an almost bell-like sound. Later in the piece, the four players bounced a note back and forth and then finished in a frenzy.
    –Laura Stevens, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock)

    “Buzz” swoops and tumbles like a songbird coasting on a summer breeze.
    –Steve Smith, TimeOut New York

    James Matheson’s “Buzz” made the most of the instrumentation…, dividing the ensemble interestingly, with the clarinet and violin combining in a mercurial counterbalance to the weightier cello and piano writing … [I]t is accessible and eclectic.
    –Allan Kozinn, The New York Times

    for Solo Violin
    Playing against the expectations of typically flamboyant, outgoing violin caprices, Matheson’s work is dramatic in an eerily quiet manner…This two-minute work sees very high position work and is suitable for advances violinists.
    –Hollis Taylor, Stringendo

    James Matheson’s “Pound” opens with a soft repeated note that grows like a beast, forming a kind of rhythmic spine, with whorls of accented notes that dance around it in a concept that only grows more chilling in its relentlessness. Eric Huebner, who was so expert in the Ligeti “Piano Concerto” last season, seemed doggedly immersed in the pummeling rhythmic patterns that only grow more and more fiendish.
    –Bruce Hodges, MusicWeb’s “Seen and Heard International

    for Violin and Piano
    Impressive… suitable for advanced players… well-crafted [with] great contrasts and textural counterpoint. Engaging and highly recommended.
    –Hollis Taylor, Stringendo

    James Matheson’s “Songs of Desire, Love, and Loss,” a song cycle for soprano and mixed ensemble, gave seven poems by Alan Dugan an evocative treatment, the soprano unfolding words carefully and pointedly while the instruments provided dappled, dovetailed, secretive underpinning – painting the place of the poems.
    –Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register

    Matheson’s Songs of “Desire, Love and Loss” illustrates and dramatizes seven poems by Alan Dugan. Matheson tends to build to a punch line, which often helps clarify Dugan’s slight obscurities. You may not know what the poet means, but the music at least directs you to the right place emotionally.
    –Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

    Matheson’s String Quartet is an impressive work…brimming with ideas; the richness of their number is palpable. Matheson…obviously has a talent for writing for strings. The “String Quartet” is, perhaps first and foremost, beautifully orchestrated, the combination of instruments used to create one wondrous color after another.
    –Timothy Mangan, Orange County Register

    [“The Paces”] isn’t afraid to be quiet… it does not fear beauty… it is prone to turn a melody in an unexpected direction, or color a harmony with a subtle surprise.
    –Peter Dobrin, The Philadelphia Inquirer

    Matheson’s lively 20-minute sequence of ear-catching timbres and evocative passages was bracketed by episodes of surging energy and buoyant fanfares.
    –Steve Smith, New York Times

    …[a] colorful assembly of snatches and patches. “Unchained” has airy flute harmonies, brass passages that bite, sharp snaps of the strings against the fingerboards of the instruments, and pretty string tremelos…
    –Richard S. Ginell, Los Angeles Times

    Matheson writes in full orchestral 3-D. Waves of tonal sounds moved across the stage, and sections had individual voices and even voices within the sections.
    –Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun Times

  • James Matheson JAMES MATHESON
    Yarlung Records (YAR25670DSD); September 30, 2016
    Performer(s): Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Baird Dodge, violin, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor; Color Field Quartet; Laura Strickling, soprano, Thomas Sauer, piano
    Work(s): String Quartet
    Times Alone
    Violin Concerto
    Women at the New Piano WOMEN AT THE NEW PIANO
    Reference Recordings (FR-711); November 11, 2014
    Performer(s): Nadia Shpachenko-Gottesman, piano
    Work(s): Cretic Variations
    Illuminations ILLUMINATIONS
    Equilibrium Records (EQ77); June 1, 2005
    Performer(s): Ambassador Duo
    Work(s): Pull
    Antares: Eclipse ANTARES: ECLIPSE
    Innova Records (618); March 1, 2005
    Performer(s): Antares
    Work(s): Buzz
    High Rise HIGH RISE
    CRI/New World Records (NWCR855); January 30, 2001
    Performer(s): Xak Bjerken, piano
    Work(s): Pound

  • 2011: Charles Ives Living Award
    2008: Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
    2002: Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
    2000: Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship

  • Burn
    for Wind Ensemble
    for Chamber Orchestra
    Four Fanfares (With Assorted Nightmares)
    for Orchestra
    River, River, River
    for Orchestra
    String Quartet
    The Age of Air
    for Two Shakuhachi and Orchestra
    True South
    for Orchestra
    Umbras and Illuminations
    for Orchestra
    for Orchestra
    Violin Concerto