Born in 1958 in Rychnov nad Kněžnou, Zbyněk Matějů is one of the most original and frequently performed Czech composers of his generation. He is mainly known for his ballet, stage and film music, which has earned him numerous domestic and international accolades. His creative range is truly extensive, with his chamber works being sought after by performers owing to their often extra-musical, modern poetic inspiration. His predominant interest in music theatre has evinced itself in extremely successful permanent collaboration with distinguished choreographers, directors, librettists, as well as film and television screenwriters.
After attending the grammar school in Rychnov nad Kněžnou (1973–77) and completing his composition studies at the Prague Conservatory (in the class of Jindřich Feld, 1977–80) and at the Faculty of Music of the Academy of Performing Arts (under the tutelage of Jiří Pauer, 1980–85, postgraduate studies of music theory, 1990–93), he further extended his education with Petr Eben, Svatopluk Havelka and other specialists. From 1990 to 1994, he taught at the Prague Conservatory and in 1994-95 at the Conservatoire in Tours, France.
A watershed in Zbyněk Matějů’s career was his victory in the 1994 Donauballett international composers’ competition, which resulted in his receiving a prestigious commission from the world-renowned Holland Dance Festival and co-operating with the choreographer Martin Muller (the ballet The Secret Life, Nederlands Dans Theater). In the same year, he was awarded the Prix Radio Bohemia (music for Pierre-Henri Cami’s Petites comédies). In 1997, to commission for the Bayreuth Festival, he created a loose adaptation of J. A. Hasse’s Baroque opera Ezio, which was subsequently staged to mark the 250th anniversary of the opening of the Markgräfliches Opernhaus. The acclaim garnered by his feature-length chamber ballet Komboloi resulted in other commissions from leading ensembles (The Wizard of Oz, IBBUR, The Garden, Kevel).
In 2001, Zdeněk Matějů composed the operas There Were Five of Us to Arnošt Goldflam’s libretto for the State Opera Prague and The Great Gatsby to commission for the National Theatre. When it comes to his film music, the most significant are the scores for the movies Operation Silver A, Brainstorm (two Elza awards) and his collaboration with the Czech directors Karel Smyczek (Romeo, Juliet and Darkness,Everything About Film, Dracula’s Brother-in-Law…) and Jan Švankmajer (Faust). Matějů has composed music for the children’s bedtime stories Žížaláci (Earth-Wormers), and he and Adolf Born and Miloš Macourek have created the animated-cartoon opera O vodovodu, který zpíval v opeře. (The Water Conduit that Sang in Opera).
Zbyněk Matějů has received numerous accolades both at home and abroad. In 1999 he won the UNESCO Prize for his work in music theatre. In the 2011/12 season, he held the post of Director of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra.