Diego Matheuz

Introduction

The thirty year old conductor and violinist Diego Matheuz is a graduate of the internationally known Venezuelan Sistema, and is already widely known as one of the most promising developing talents from the Americas. Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra Mozart since 2009, Matheuz was appointed Principal Conductor of Teatro la Fenice in September 2011. In August 2013 he started a three year appointment as Principal Guest Conductor of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

During the 2014/15 season in addition to his regular engagements in Venice and Melbourne, Diego Matheuz makes his debut with the Philharmonia Zurich, Gurzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker, BBC Philharmonic, Vancouver Symphony, Orchestre National de Lyon and the Orchestre Chambre de Paris at the Festival de Saint-Denis. He takes up re-invitations to the Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France at their Festival Présences in Paris and to Seiji Ozawa's Saito Kinen Orchestra following a very successful tour of Japan and China with them in 2011. This season will also mark his opera debut in Spain, conducting Donizetti's Don Pasquale at the Liceu in Barcelona.

Click here to download Diego's full 2014/15 biography. 

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Press

Moncayo, Mozart, Berlioz

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Canada

"...Having been cited by the Gramophone magazine as a young conductor  “on the verge of greatness”, and most recently appointed as Principal Guest Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony, there was considerable anticipation of Matheuz’s debut, and it changed the focus of the concert.[...] Matheuz  brought along Jose Pablo Moncayo’s colourful piece, Huapango, a modern Mexican composition with lots of brilliance and passionate flow, anchored to a folk core.  As the concert opener, the young conductor certainly dove right in, bringing great enthusiasm and sparkle to the work, and exhibiting strong orchestral control.  Virtually everything was right about the orchestra’s sound, the strings so clean and full of life, the winds strongly shaped and the brass punctuations crisp and incisive. An enjoyable work too, except that it finished so abruptly that no one quite knew that it was over. [...] The big event was Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, much more of a challenge for a young conductor. Again, the opening was particularly fine, generating considerable plasticity from the gossamer-like strings, then keeping things forward moving and alive by a combination of selective rubato and explosive attack.  One really got the idea of shifting landscapes, of different dreams and fantasies, of different colours and sensualities, with all the ominous undercurrents in place.[...] The last two movements are of course something a young conductor relishes.  They received a very strong, big-boned treatment, again the rhythmic pulls and pushes rather Spanish in feel but generating an almost Russian intensity as we approached the end.  Though the double bass surges were given extra dramatic emphasis, the Witches’ Sabbath turned out to be more powerful than macabre --  but certainly good enough to bring the house down and show off the command of the conductor and the virtuosity of the orchestra..." © Geoffrey Newman 2014. Vancouver Classical Music

Shostakovich & Beethoven

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, March 2014

Costa Hall, Geelong, Australia

"...For the first time this year, the players impressed as united in their work, from the liberally applied bombast of Shostakovich's Festive Overture to the heart-quickening stretto that concludes Beethoven's C minor Symphony [...] Beethoven's Fifth Symphony enjoyed orthodox treatment, Matheuz interpolating some unexpected breathing spaces. The entire body made a refreshing experience of this workhorse, the woodwind so penetrating that Brock Imison's contrabassoon could be perceived through thick, fullorchestra chords, the strings notable for consistently determined attack. An experience well worth the journey."  Clive O'Connell, The Sydney Morning Herald & The Age
"...Nearly half way through his three-year contract with the MSO, a suave Matheuz demonstrated a gestural range of cool understatement, punctuated by powerful arm sweeps..." Eamonn Kelly, The Australian

Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro Overture - Beethoven, Piano Concerto No 3 & Symphony No 3 'Eroica'

Orchestra Mozart

Queen Elizabeth Hall

"...They opened the concert with the effervescent overture to Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Racing through the musical themes at a rate of knots, the score is overflowing with typical Mozartian comedy and fast-paced melodic ideas that never quite come to their conclusion. The tempo was always moving forward, giving the performance a sense of daring and anticipation, which the incredibly precise playing never allowed to falter. Matheuz’s conducting was understated and playful, and completely memorised, which was highly impressive [...] (Eroica) Exuberant horns and solo phrases that were seamlessly passed around the orchestra kept the audience on the edge of their seats and Matheuz was a master of keeping the tension bubbling away, just under wraps, before letting the orchestra loose on the climaxes [...] The tumultuous applause for Matheuz and Orchestra Mozart was well deserved indeed." Emily Owen, Bachtrack
"...29-year-old Venezuelan Diego Matheuz (an El Sistema protégé) offered a glimpse of mentor Claudio Abbado with a very similar technique [...] After the interval Matheuz, again without the score, gave us the ‘Eroica’. We’d had another young man’s ‘Eroica’ at the Proms: Robin Ticciati’s impeccably and beautifully played but slightly vacuous Scottish Chamber Orchestra performance. Matheuz was more purposeful and convincing; thrilling even, with an icy edge (almost imperceptible at the start) to the second-movement ‘Funeral March’, with so little vibrato. Perhaps there’s more emotional depths to uncover, but the sound was full (the four double basses giving requisite heft to the bass line) and the music-making generous. The musicians seemed to enjoy it too – eye contact between them heightened the collaborative effect – and they were certainly hunting out an encore, even though Matheuz eventually led them off leaving the audience wanting more." Nick Breckenfield, Classical Source

Featuring Stravinsky's ballet masterpieces

MSO Russian Festival Series

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall

"...For the second concert celebrating the centenary of Stravinsky's seminal The Rite of Spring, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra gave a spirited reading of Petrushka under Diego Matheuz. With histrionics-free direction, the MSO's principal guest conductor gave clarity to the polyrhythms of the outer Shrovetide Fair scenes, the high strings at their best in the brilliantly achieved changes the composer constructed on simple folk tunes and popular songs [...] Matheuz and his well-exercised collaborators, including guests, realised the hectic dynamism and fluency of a construct few in the audience
would have seen in its proper form - at a staged performance..."
Clive O'connell, Brisbane Times
"...Elegant in appearance and style of conducting, he is less flamboyant than one might have expected from a famous product of the El Sistema, the revolutionary initiative that has brought orchestral music to so many children living in poverty in Venezuela. His credentials as a notable conductor of Russian music have been forged in the Sistema, which has the works of Russian composers at its heart. As a violinist, he has played Tchaikovsky’s concerto many times and brought a sympathetic and detailed understanding to this reading of the score [...] Some of the most satisfying moments of the evening were provided in the item after interval with Stravinsky’s The Firebird: Suite. Generally speaking, the orchestra appeared to be more comfortable and at one in this piece than they had been in Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. With careful attention to detail, Diego Matheuz’ precise style drew fine playing both from the full orchestra and featured orchestral soloists. The horn solos of Sam Jacobs, who was appearing as Principal horn courtesy of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, were simply glorious. There were also a number of excellent contributions from principal wind and string players, especially from Jeffrey Crellin on oboe and Wilma Smith on violin.
 
It was clear from the way the orchestra responded to Matheuz, both during and at the conclusion of the concert, that this relationship is one of the greatest warmth and respect. That kind of close rapport bodes well for an exciting and productive future together. In the short term, we can be confident that the next two concerts in the Russian Festival series will be very rewarding experiences."
Heather Leviston, artsHun Australia
"...Matheuz imposed little on the soloist's intentions, allowing space during her lyrical canzonetta and providing clear direction for well-balanced accompaniment in the outer movements. While there was no shortage of fireworks and technical facility from Skride, this reading was in contrast to the assured individualism experienced days earlier.
The evening's highlight did come from the contest of good and evil in the 1945 version of Stravinsky's The Firebird suite. From the brooding depths of its dark chromatic opening, Matheuz impressed with precise and economical baton work that emphasised rhythm, successfully negotiated the shifting meters and key structures delineating the earthly and supernatural worlds.
Hopefully a precursor to next week's Rite of Spring, demonic brass and percussion were unleashed for the exciting rhythmic intensity of the Infernal Dance..."
Martin Duffy, Sydney Morning Herald
"...Matheuz impressed with a no-frills approach, processing the time-signature changes with a lucid conscientiousness rather than following the Stokowski line and playing the showman-conductor. His results were impressive, the strings showing excellent discipline in the final dances to the ballet's parts, while the woodwind enjoyed testing exposure, the contrasting introductions clear and mobile even if the bass clarinet lines enjoyed prominence during some ensemble passages.
All involved met the composer's demands in this riveting orchestral obstacle course, packing considerable punch and always surprising..."
Clive O'connell, Sydney Morning Herald

Moncayo, Chapela (European Première), Prokofiev

CBSO, 'Cosmic Dances'

Symphony Hall, Birmingham

"...The whole sequence was beautifully judged by Matheuz, with some refined string textures in the number for Romeo and Juliet alone and the final Death of Juliet, and wonderfully sharp articulation from the orchestra in the Death of Tybalt..." Andrew Clements, The Guardian
"...The second half moved abruptly from stars to star-crossed lovers and Prokofiev’s inspired ballet music for Romeo and Juliet. Matheuz, a slight but commanding figure, conducted from memory, creating a perfect balance between love and strife, everything full of character, sparkling, swaggering, passionate and soaring as required, full of tragic momentum until the inevitable end with the lovers united in death. Cosmic indeed!"

John Gough, Birmingham Post

BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto (Kolja Blacher) - SHOSTAKOVICH Symphony No 10

Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela

KKL Hall, Lucerne

'...The Lucerne Easter Festival recently trained the spotlight on Diego Matheuz, 25, a protégé of Mr. Abbado, who last week conducted the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, the ensemble that stands at the summit of El Sistema’s organizational pyramid. No stranger to the Lucerne audience, Mr. Matheuz substituted for Mr. Abbado last summer at the general rehearsal of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony on such short notice he didn’t have time to change into concert attire for the public event. Engagements with Rome’s Santa Cecilia Orchestra followed as a replacement for an indisposed Antonio Pappano, and last fall Mr. Matheuz was named principal guest conductor of Mr. Abbado’s Orchestra Mozart based in Bologna.  Despite his closeness to Mr. Abbado, Mr. Matheuz said in an interview that his principal conducting teacher remains the legendary José Antonio Abreu, 70, who founded El Sistema in 1976. A year later it did so well at a youth orchestra festival in Aberdeen, Scotland, that the Venezuelan government began funding it. It has done so ever since through some 10 administrations of differing political persuasions. The current budget is around $80 million, of which 90 percent comes from the government.   By all accounts a man of immense organizational and motivational skills, Mr. Abreu is also an outstanding musician with an uncanny ability to pinpoint talent. Mr. Matheuz recalled the time he first expressed to Mr. Abreu an interest in conducting. “‘Fine,’ he said. ‘Come back tomorrow and be prepared to conduct Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.’ The maestro has students conduct silently in lessons, then comments on technique and interpretation.” Yet, since each “núcleo” has an average of three orchestras, opportunities abound for first-hand experience before an orchestra. 
According to Eduardo Méndez, El Sistema’s executive director, the organization is as much a social as a musical one and it emphasizes having fun. Mr. Matheuz said he was nine when he met Mr. Dudamel, four years his senior, and they became soccer buddies as well as a fellow musicians. Students come from all walks of life, but “for many underprivileged youths,” Mr. Méndez said, “El Sistema is an alternative to drugs, street and gangs. They can compare their options — the street or us.” Yet musical excellence is recognized as essential if students are to be inspired to participate fully...' [...] '...Its players show boundless enthusiasm in all their concerts, but Mr. Matheuz’s reading of Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony remarkably channelled that enthusiasm into a cogent interpretation in which moments of brooding intensity were just as convincing as high strung outbursts. He also proved to be an adroit accompanist in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, which profited from Kolja Blacher’s masterful playing as soloist...' 

George Loomis, New York Times

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