The Mexican conductor and composer, Eduardo Mata, began studying guitar privately when he was about eight years old for three years. In 1953, he enrolled in the National Conservatory of Music, studying with Rodolfo Halffter and Jose Moncayo. From 1960 to 1963, he was in the composition workshop of Carlos Chavez, Héctor Quintanar and Julián Orbón. In 1964 he received a Koussevitzky Fellowship to study at Tanglewood. There, he studied conducting with Max Rudolf and Erich Leinsdorf and composition with Gunther Schuller. The same year he was resident for the Berkshire Music Center Festival Orchestra (1964).
In 1965 Eduardo Mata was appointed head of the Music Department of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and conductor of the Guadalajara Orchestra. From 1966 to 1975, he also conducted the orchestra at the University, which became in 1972 the National Autonomous University of Mexico Philarmonic Orchestra. Most of his compositions were written in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, before his conducting career began to dominate his time. They consist of three symphonies, several chamber works including a well-regarded cello/piano sonata, sonatas, Improvisations (1966) for two pianos and strings, and works for ballet. His third symphony and some of his chamber works have been recorded.
In 1972, Eduardo Mata resigned from the Guadalajara positionand left Mexico to take the position of principal conductor of the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra in Arizona. In 1974 he was appointed as the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra 's music director, holding that position until he was offered the position of music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1977..
From 1977 to 1993 Eduardo Mata was music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Although Dallas is the major financial, business, and arts center of the American Southwest, at the time its orchestra was in shaky condition. It had closed for the third time in its history in 1974, due to an insurmountable deficit. A new organization plan had reopened it, under the temporary leadership of American Louis Lane, billed as its "guest conductor." Lane had just achieved, for the first time, a full-time, 52-week contract for the musicians, deemed essential to establishing the security needed to attract worthy players. Mata brought the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to what commentators referred to as its second "golden age," referring to the previous golden age of conductors Antal Doráti (1945-1949) and Walter Hendl (1949-1958). He lifted the orchestra to unexpectedly high standards, and made a number of digital recordings with it for Pro Arte, RCA Victor, Delos, Telarc, and Dorian. At the helm of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, he participated in the planning of its acoustically excellent concert hall in the Meyerson Symphony Center and led the first concerts in the hall. The recordings made there with Dorian Records are counted among the finest. He made concert tours to Austria, Bulgaria and Mexico.
Eduardo Mata was also temporary conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (since 1974); principal guest conductor of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of Solistas de Mexico. He was guest conductor of the most important philharmonic orchestras of East Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, the USA, and Latin America, including appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. He stepped down from his Dallas position in 1993 and was succeeded by American conductor Andrew Litton. With the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, he and Dorian Records launched a fruitful series of recordings of Latin-American orchestral compositions, concentrating on such composers as Antonio Estévez, Alberto Ginastera, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and Revueltas. He was Opera artistic counselor and director of Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (the National Fine Arts Institute). Since August 9, 1984, he became a member of El Colegio Nacional.
As a conductor, Eduardo Mata was controversial. He was youthful for such an important position, and was sometimes criticized for inconsistency in interpretation - criticisms that became less frequent over the years. He had a penchant for deliberate tempos, but produced a rich, detailed, and transparent orchestral sound. He conducted a wide repertoire and was particularly recognized for twentieth century music, particularly of Latin American composers. He recorded over fifty albums, most of them with the UNAM Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and London Symphony Orchestra. His main activity included recording Mexican works.
On the morning of January 4, 1995, Eduardo Mata and a passenger were en route from Cuernavaca, Morelos, to Dallas, Texas. Mata was piloting his own Piper Aerostar. One engine failed shortly after takeoff, and the plane crashed near Cuernavaca Airport during an emergency landing attempt. Both died. A high school in Dallas has been renamed after him, and the state of Oaxaca (Mexico) established an "Eduardo Mata Autumn Festival" in his honor.