The Critics’ Circle is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Matthew Rye at the age of 60. Matthew was a much-loved figure, well known for his quiet, astute intelligence, a profound knowledge of music which he nevertheless wore lightly, and a kind, unassuming, twinkly nature which made him the best of colleagues and friends. Born in Norfolk, Matthew studied at Oxford and went a good way towards a doctorate in composition at Birmingham – though he did not mind admitting that he never completed it.
I first met Matthew on my first day in my first music journalism job in 1989. He was assistant editor of The Musical Times; I was assistant editor of The Strad. We sat opposite one another for a year and enjoyed an unlimited supply of coffee and jokes, besides plentiful discussions about the likes of Korngold and Schreker – a particular enthusiasm of his – well before they had been restored to fashion.
Matthew went on to work for BBC Music Magazine and became a critic for The Telegraph, where his excellent reviews were scrupulously fair-minded. His distinguished freelance career included editing the substantial volume 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die. Later he was reviews editor of The Strad and of the Wagner Journal, to which he contributed copiously.
Matthew could often be found touring German opera houses off the beaten track, reviewing repertoire that was similarly so – for instance, Hindemith, Henze, Dessau and, of course, Schreker and Korngold. As a committed “Wagner nut” he covered plenty of performances of the beast of Bayreuth, notably at Bayreuth itself; as a stalwart reviewer for Bachtrack, he covered its two most recent Ring cycles.
When he was not on the road, Matthew and his partner, David, split their time between Buckinghamshire and Madeira. My husband and I cherish memories of a wonderful winter visit during which they insisted on driving us up to the island’s highest viewing point, involving a lengthy trip up one of the twistiest roads I’ve ever seen. But taking the long view, gaining its perspective and reaping the rewards of the resulting vistas were, in a way, what Matthew’s approach to life and writing was all about.
Matthew died in Madeira after a short illness, a brain haemorrhage caused by an undiagnosed tumour. We will miss him more than we can ever express.