Matthew Barley was born in London and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and the Moscow Conservatoire. He made his London concerto debut playing the Shostakovich cello concerto in the Barbican Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra, as a finalist of the LSO-Shell competition. His first CD, in 2003, was The Silver Swan for Black Box was a compilation of pieces for multi-tracked cellos, all of which he recorded himself using pioneering techniques of layering voices without an electronic click. His next CD, Reminding, featured Soviet music for cello and piano, and was released on Quartz in September 2005.
As a soloist and chamber musician he has performed in over 50 countries, including appearances with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with conductors including Marin Alsop, Thomas Dausgaard, Tan Dun, Charles Hazlewood, Markus Stenz, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Ilan Volkov.
He has performed at festivals in Lucerne, Schleswig-Holstein, Bonn-Beethovenfest, Hong Kong, Lanaudiere, Abu Dhabi, Krakow, City of London and at some of the world's great concert halls: London's Wigmore Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Kumho Hall in Korea, Casals Hall in Tokyo, The Rudolfinum in Prague, and the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. A key aspect of his recitals is mixing repertoire in unusual ways, pairing Bach suites with jazz and improvisation. He is particularly interested in music with electronics, having commissioned works from many composers including Dai Fujikura, Peter Wiegold, DJ Bee, John Metcalfe and Jan Bang. He has given other premieres of pieces written for him by James MacMillan, Thomas Larcher, Detlev Glanert, John Woolrich, and Fraser Trainer.
Barley's classical collaborations include with Matthias Goerne, The Labeque Sisters, Martin Fröst, Viviane Hagner and Thomas Larcher Non-classical collaborations have included with Avi Avital, Manu Delago, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Talvin Singh, Sultan Khan, Nitin Sawhney, Django Bates,and jazz pianists Julian Joseph and Nikki Yeoh.
In 2013 Barley toured the UK to celebrate the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, performing 100 concerts and workshops throughout the year.