Matthew Best is one of the most well-known and versatile musicians working in the UK today. An opera singer for over thirty-five years with a distinguished reputation worldwide, he has also worked extensively as a choral and orchestral conductor across the UK and Europe, at various stages during his career as composer, arranger and editor, and more recently as a respected singing teacher and coach. He received his musical education at King’s College, Cambridge where he was a choral scholar, and at the National Opera Studio. As a singer he has studied under the late Otakar Kraus, with Robert Lloyd and with Patrick McGuigan, and in 1981 was awarded the Decca-Kathleen Ferrier Prize.
For a great many years Matthew Best has been a regular guest artist for all the major UK opera houses, and is familiar to concert audiences across the country and in Europe and the USA. He has appeared regularly for The Royal Opera, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Opera North, for Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Glyndebourne Touring Opera, for Grange Park Opera and Buxton Opera Festival. Abroad he has worked as a guest artist for Opéra de Lyon, Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris), in Nancy, Rouen and Nice, at the opera houses of Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Cologne, for Oper Leipzig in Hong Kong, at the Théâtre de la Monnaie (Brussels), Vlaamse Opera, Netherlands Opera, Royal Swedish Opera, Santa Fé Opera and Florida Grand Opera. He appears regularly at all the major UK concert halls, including on several occasions at the BBC Promenade Concerts; in addition he has worked as soloist in over eighty European and UK cities, in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, and in the USA in New York, Miami, St Louis and Los Angeles.
Over his long career Matthew Best’s extensive repertoire has included over one hundred bass, bass-baritone and baritone roles. Chief amongst these have been Wotan in the complete Wagner Ring Cycle, The Flying Dutchman, King Mark, Amfortas, Kurwenal, King Heinrich, Scarpia, Jochanaan, La Roche, Orest, Peneios, Commendatore, Timur, Arkel, Ramfis and Sparafucile, and he has premiered roles in new operas by Jonathan Harvey, Julian Anderson and (US premiere) Kaija Saariaho. He has worked with a great many of the world’s leading conductors, including Gergiev, Muti, Haitink, Colin Davis, Andrew Davis, Mehta, Nelsons, Salonen, Svetlanov, Sanderling, Mackerras, Marriner, Runnicles, Gardiner, Hickox, Leppard, Nelson and Gilbert.
Matthew Best is equally well known as a conductor specialising in choral, vocal and orchestral music. Founder (1973) and artistic director of Corydon Singers and Corydon Orchestra, he has made over thirty highly-regarded recordings for the Hyperion label, three of which have been runner-up for the Choral Award in Gramophone, and several others selected as the recommended version on Building a Library on BBC Radio 3, mostly recently his recording of Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem and Toward the Unknown Region. Recordings include a cycle of all the major Bruckner choral works, Vaughan Williams’ opera Hugh the Drover, Serenade to Music and a four-disc set of Vaughan Williams choral works, the Beethoven Mass in C and ‘Emperor’ Cantatas, the Rachmaninov Vespers and Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Fauré and Duruflé Requiems, Britten St Nicolas, Berlioz L’Enfance du Christ, Finzi Intimations of Immortality and discs of music by Mendelssohn, Cherubini, Britten, Tchaikovsky, Copland and Villa-Lobos. He has conducted at festivals throughout the UK and Europe, at the BBC Proms, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, St. John’s, Smith Square, and in the cathedrals of Westminster, Salisbury, Lichfield, Gloucester, Chester and Southwark. Earlier in his career he appeared regularly as guest conductor with the English Chamber Orchestra, London Mozart Players, Northern Sinfonia, City of London Sinfonia and BBC Singers; he has also appeared with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, English Northern Philharmonia, New Queen’s Hall Orchestra, Royal Seville Symphony Orchestra and Sonderjyllands Sinfoniorkester. For the 1998-9 season he was Principal Conductor of the Hanover Band, conducting a Beethoven cycle in London including the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th symphonies and Emperor Concerto. At the start of 2017 Matthew Best became Music Director of the Academy Choir Wimbledon and Academy Baroque Players.
At the start of his career Matthew Best was very active as a composer and arranger. He conducted the premiere of his operetta Alice (based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland) in Cambridge in February 1979, directed by Nicholas Hytner; further performances were given in the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, as part of the 1979 Aldeburgh Festival, with a guest appearance by Sir Peter Pears. His other works include choral music (first performances including by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge and Corydon Singers) and song cycles. He has produced performing editions for a number of works, including of a rare Bruckner manuscript for inclusion in his Bruckner cycle for Hyperion Records.
In recent years Matthew Best has added adjudicating, teaching and coaching to his busy schedule. He has adjudicated several competitions at the Guildhall School of Music, Royal Academy of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire, has given masterclasses at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, RNCM and Cardiff University, and has recently taken up a teaching post at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, which he combines with his singing and conducting commitments. He was part of the jury for the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Competition.
Don Fernando Fidelio
Dansker Billy Budd
Quince A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Theseus A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Arkel Pelleas et Melisande
Seneca L’incoronazione di Poppea
Sarastro Die Zauberflöte
Sprecher Die Zauberflöte
Ancient Hebrew Samson et Dalila
Old Convict Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
First Soldier Salome
Trulove The Rake’s Progress
Gremin Eugene Onegin
Fafner Das Rheingold
Hunding Die Walküre
King Marke Tristan und Isolde
Pogner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Hermit Der Freischütz
St. Matthew Passion
St. John Passion
Mass in C
L’Enfance du Christ
La Damnation de Faust
Romeo et Juliette
The Dream of Gerontius
Die Erste Walpurgisnacht
Mass in C Minor
Mass of the Sea
Messa di Gloria
Petite Messe Solennelle
A Child of our Time
Matthew Best’s excellent Swallow… leave[s] an indelible impression
Matthew Best succeeded in bringing an outstanding presence both vocally and dramatically to his Commendatore: every word was sung with a deeply chilling color and expert inflection, which arguably makes Best unrivalled in London for the excellence of his performance.
Matthew Best’s exemplary King Marke … a figure of nobly dignified bearing, focused sound and elegant phrasing.