William Mathias was one of the foremost Welsh composers of the twentieth century. He achieved early success with a performance of his Sonata for clarinet at the Cheltenham Music Festival in 1957, and two years later his Berceuse for orchestra was performed at the Festival Hall in London. During the 1960s he developed markedly as a composer and discovered his own unique voice, writing in almost every form and embracing sacred and secular works. He succeeded in creating music notable for its rhythmic vitality and its ready appeal to audiences, and it was said of him that he had succeeded in bringing contemporary European influences to Wales without losing his own distinctive voice.
Among his best known choral works are St Teilo (1962), This World's Joie (1974), Lux Aeterna (1982) and World's Fire (1989). He composed one full-length opera, The Servants, to a libretto by the writer Iris Murdoch. His anthem ‘Let the people praise thee, O Lord’ was commissioned for the wedding of the Prince of Wales in 1981. During the 1970s he created a series of works for orchestra which he called ‘landscapes of the mind’: Laudi (1973), Vistas (1975), Helios (1977) and Requiescat (1977). He composed three symphonies, and left a fourth unfinished at his death.
He married in September 1959 (Margaret) Yvonne Collins from Aberdare, and they had one daughter, Rhiannon (b.1968). He died at Menai Bridge on 29 July 1992. His manuscripts were placed in the National Library of Wales.
Dr Rhidian Griffiths, Aberystwyth
Published date: 2014