Matthew McDonald,

1st Principal Bass

Born in Canberra (Australia)

Member since 2009-01-01

“The double-bass section has to be an incredibly flexible ‘engine’. First, we have an important rhythmic function: not only do we give the beat; we also have to know when to take it over from others. Secondly, we create the harmonic foundation without which the upper parts and certain dissonances would have no effect. Lastly, we have some wonderful melodies to play in the Romantic repertoire. Our job thus has a lot of variety. This bass section is simply incredible. At my first rehearsal I could hardly believe that this wonderfully beautiful sound and I were together on the same podium. At first I had the feeling I would only harm this sound with my playing.”

As a child Matthew McDonald was actually interested in playing only jazz and rock music. His parents gave him an electric bass for Christmas – but only under the condition that he would also learn to play the double bass. Matthew quickly fell in love with the big instrument’s dark, mellow sound. In 1996 he began his studies with Max McBride at the Canberra School of Music, later continuing with Kees Boersma in Sydney, where he completed his bachelor’s (BMus) degree in 2000. From 2000 to 2001 he was a scholar of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Orchestra Academy, and then was immediately engaged as deputy principal bass of the Danish National Orchestra.

He relinquished that position in order to prepare for his concert exam with Esko Laine at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin. Engagements followed as principal bass with the Ensemble Modern (2003-06) and with Berlin’s Rundfunk Sinfonie Orchester and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester before he came to the Berliner Philharmoniker. As a chamber player, Matthew McDonald is a regular visitor to the Open Chamber Music seminar at Prussia Cove in Cornwall. He devotes his free time to his family, first and foremost, and also enjoys reading and going to the cinema.

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Solo bassist Matthew McDonald in conversation