Nicholas Mathew

Professor, Musicology

Department of Music


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

Short Bio

Nicholas Mathew is Professor of Music and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Humanities. Born in Norwich, in the UK, he was educated at his local comprehensive school, and went on to study music history and the piano at Oxford University, the Guildhall School of Music, and Cornell University. He joined the faculty at Berkeley in 2007.  His publications include the books Political Beethoven and The Haydn Economy.

More About Me

My published work has mostly focused on music and politics, broadly understood: the place of music in political institutions, the role of music in public life, the relation of cultural production to economic structures, 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.

I’ve just finished a new book on the deep history of music and political economy: the historical complicity of lofty aesthetic and extractive economic discourses in European and colonial centers in the long eighteenth century (a lot of this involves the music, career, and global dispersion of Joseph Haydn).

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a varied bunch of topics in lectures and articles: the history of “good listeners,” Glenn Gould and Liberace in the 1950s, the limits of the national paradigm in the study of nineteenth-century music, Webern and modernist pianism, the “middlebrow sublime,” and Napoleonic melodrama in Vienna.

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 a pianist, and 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), a Chickering from the golden age of American piano building (1896), and a Bechstein (1900).  We regularly lend these instruments to performers and festivals.  Please get in touch if you would like to use any of these pianos: they are there to be played.

Doctoral dissertations 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”; artisanal knowledge and the ancien regime French harpsichord; cultures of reading in nineteenth-century Italian opera; the eighteenth-century media phenomenon of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater; the history and theory of the Hollywood recording studio; the invention of sacred music and art religion in Berlin c.1800; the “white mythologies” of sound and presence in French and American modernism.

I have supervised a handful of undergraduate honors theses over the years, 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, including a 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.

For performances, media, and other engagements, please visit Lambert Arts.


Music 70 (Music History for majors), Music 24 (Freshman Seminar – The Boyband, from The Ink Spots to BTS), Music 27 (Introduction to Western Music), Piano Performance, 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 (Aesthetics – Now?!), Music 220 (Music and Politics), Music 220 (Aesthetics and Political Economy), Music 220 (New Histories of Eighteenth-Century Music), Music 220 (Late Beethoven), Music 220 (Sound and the City), Music 220 (Music, Capitalism, Materialism), Music 220 (Readings in Music and Politics).



  • The Haydn Economy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022)
  • 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

  • “Listening(s) Past: History and the Mediatic Musicology,” Representations 154 (2021): 143–55
  • “Gould and Liberace, or The Fate of Nineteenth-Century Performance Culture,” Journal of Musicological Research 39/2-3 (2020)
  • “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)

Book Reviews

  • Sarah Hibberd and Miranda Stanyek eds., Music and the Sonorous Sublime (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), Journal For Eighteenth-Century Studies 45/2 (2022)
  • 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)
  • “The Tangled Woof [review essay on books by Bonds, Lowe, and Wyn Jones],” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 134/1 (2009)
  • Stephen Rumph, Beethoven After Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late Works (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), Current Musicology (2004)