Skip to main content

Nicholas Mathew

Associate Professor

My published work has mostly focused on music and politics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the place of music in political institutions, the role of music in public life, and the ways in which music produces social attachments and collective identity – as well as issues of political appropriation, subversion, musical trashiness, and political kitsch.

My book Political Beethoven (2013) re-examined the politically charged rhetoric of Beethoven’s music and its later reception, and argued for relationships between his canonical music and the popular culture and political schlock of the Napoleonic era, including his own alleged potboilers.  The essays in the volume The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini (which I edited with Benjamin Walton in 2013) revisited the history of the fraught opposition between the two eponymous composers, and the artistic and philosophical traditions they came to represent.

Along the way, I have also produced papers on a varied bunch of topics, including Webern and modernist pianism, Glenn Gould and Liberace in the 1950s, the “middlebrow sublime,” and Napoleonic melodrama in Vienna.  Most recently, I have started to publish parts of a project on music, materialism, global dispersion, and markets in the long eighteenth century (a lot of this has ended up involving Haydn).

I’m on the editorial board of the interdisciplinary journal Representations, as well as the boards of the Journal of Musicology and Eighteenth-Century Music.  Together with my colleague James Davies, I founded the book series New Material Histories of Music at the University of Chicago Press.  We encourage potential authors to get in touch.

I’m also a pianist, reponsible for the music department’s magnificent collection of nineteenth-century pianos, which includes two superb copies of Viennese instruments after Walter (c. 1790) and Graf (c. 1820) by the master American builder Rod Regier, a London Erard (1854), a rare Wilhelm Wieck (c. 1860), a Steinway (1872), and a Bechstein (1900).  Please get in touch if you would like to use any of these pianos: they are there to be played.

Doctoral projects that I have supervised or helped to supervise are on a wide range of subjects, including music and childhood in the Austrian enlightenment; socialism and music pedagogy in the former German Democratic Republic; American new music foundations in the twentieth century; novelty and consumerism in nineteenth-century French opera; Wagner’s “political ecology”; science, artisan culture, and the seventeenth-century French harpsichord; cultures of reading in nineteenth-century Italian opera; the eighteenth-century media phenomenon of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater; and the invention of sacred music and “art religion” in Berlin c.1800.

I have supervised a handful of undergraduate honors theses, and I’m always open to doing so if you come to me with an idea or a passion.  I’ve also sponsored a number of DeCal classes over the years, including the long-running student-led Radiohead seminar. Below is a list of courses that I have supervised, taught, or that I teach regularly – but I’m always open to new suggestions.

I was born in England, and I was educated there until grad school.  I have been on the faculty at Berkeley since 2007, following a three-year stint as a Junior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford.


Music 27 (Introduction to Western Music), Music 150C (Piano Performance), Music 150H (Early Music Performance), Music 128 (Beethoven), Music 128 (Mozart and Haydn), Music 128 (Fin-de-Siècle Vienna), Music 170 (Music, Aesthetics, Politics), Music 170 (Mozart and the Musical Languages of the Enlightenment), Music 170A (Improvising and Composing Eighteenth-Century Music), Music 170A (Pianism), Music 200B (Introduction to Music Scholarship), Music 220 (Music in Political Life from Handel to Wagner), Music 220 (Aesthetics and Political Economy), Music 220 (New Histories of Eighteenth-Century Music), Music 220 (Music and Money), Music 220 (Late Beethoven), Music 220 (Sound and the City), Music 220 (Music, Capitalism, Materialism).


  • Oxford University (Music): 1995-1998
  • Guildhall School of Music (Piano): 1995-1999
  • Cornell University (Music PhD, fortepiano studies with Malcolm Bilson): 1999-2004



  • Political Beethoven (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • (Ed. with Benjamin Walton) The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini: Historiography, Criticism, Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Journal Articles

  • “Musical Histories of the Attention Economy” (Colloquy: Attention, Anxiety, and Audition’s Histories), Journal of the American Musicological Society 72/2 (2019)
  • “Interesting Haydn: On Attention’s Materials,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 71/3 (2018)
  • “Out of Circulation: Beethoven, ‘Hat man nicht auch Gold beineben’ (Rocco), Fidelio, Act I” Cambridge Opera Journal 28/2 (2016)
  • “Elephants in the Music Room: The Future of Quirk Historicism” (with Mary Ann Smart), Representations 132 (2015)
  • “Darmstadt Pianism, ‘Historically Informed’ Webern, and Modernism’s Vanishing Performer,” Keyboard Perspectives III (2010)
  • “Beethoven’s Political Music, the Handelian Sublime, and the Aesthetics of Prostration,” Nineteenth-Century Music 33/2 (2009)
  • “Heroic Haydn, the Occasional Work, and ‘Modern Political Music’,” Eighteenth-Century Music 4/1 (2007)
  • “History under Erasure: Wellingtons Sieg, the Congress of Vienna, and the Ruination of Beethoven’s Heroic Style,” The Musical Quarterly 89/1 (2006)
  • “Beethoven and His Others: Criticism, Difference, and the Composer’s Many Voices,” Beethoven Forum 13/2 (2006)

Book Chapters

  • “Vienna, 18 October 1814: Urban Space and Public Memory in the Napoleonic ‘Occasional Melodrama’,” in The Melodramatic Moment: Music and Theatrical Culture, 1790–1820, ed. Katherine Hambridge and Jonathan Hicks (University of Chicago Press, 2018)
  • “Haydn: Places,” in The Cambridge Haydn Encyclopedia, ed. Caryl Clark and Sarah Day-O’Connell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)
  • “Introduction: Pleasure in History,” in The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini: Criticism, Historiography, Analysis, ed. Nicholas Mathew and Benjamin Walton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013) (with B. Walton)
  • “On Being There in 1824,” in The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini: Criticism, Historiography, Analysis, ed. Nicholas Mathew and Benjamin Walton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • “’Achieved is the Glorious Work’: The Creation and the Choral Work Concept,” in Engaging Haydn: Context, Culture, and Criticism, ed. Mary Hunter and Richard Will (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012)


  • “The Tangled Woof,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 134/1 (2009).

Book Reviews

  • Daniel Chua, Beethoven and Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), Eighteenth-Century Music 15/2 (2018)
  • Tilman Skowroneck, Beethoven the Pianist (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), Galpin Society Journal (2018)
  • Christoph Wolff, Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012), Eighteenth-Century Music 12/1 (2015)
  • James Currie, Music and the Politics of Negation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012), Journal of the American Musicological Society 67/3 (2014)
  • Stephen Rumph, Beethoven After Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late Works (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), Current Musicology (2004)