Nicola Matteis was the leading violin virtuoso in the London scene in the last part of the seventeenth century and a minor composer of considerable popularity in his time.
Practically nothing is known of his early life. He arrived in England in the early 1670s and he appears to have been too shy or reserved in his initial appearances, for the merchant who sponsored him had to get him "to be free, easy and familiar, and to let Gentlemen, not the best hands, to have his company in consorts." In other words, to let amateurs with not too much ability sit in, provided they had useful amounts of clout.
He was credited with changing the English taste for violin playing from the French style to a newer Italian approach to the instrument. His reputation grew through the 1670s and 1680s and resulted in popularity of his growing list of published works. However, it is difficult to track his career as he was apparently not interested in applying for jobs in royal service. If he had applied or received such a position, the fact would have been recorded in Lord Chamberlain's Office. His only mention there is as a potential founder of the proposed Royal Academy (with Draghi, Finger, Purcell, and others), a project that never came to be. His compositions are lively, well-crafted, and expressive and are all in the form of instrumental music and a few songs. Matteis tended to give precise instructions with his published music, knowing that many of his customers were amateurs. He provided bowing instructions, explanations of ornaments, tempos, and other directions in prefaces to his publications. These are valuable resources for scholars reconstructing performance practices of the time.