Matthew McDonald was born in Canberra, Australia. He has studied with Max McBride at the Canberra School of Music, Kees Boersma at the Sydney Conservatorium, Klaus Stoll at the Karajan Academy (the orchestral academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra), and Esko Laine at the Hocschule für Musik Hanns Eisler, where he studied for Konzertexamen (soloists diploma) and in 2000, wen to Berlin as a student at the Karajan.
Following this Matthew was assistant principal bass of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, principal bass of Ensemble Modern, principal bass of the Rundfunk Sinfonie Orchester Berlin, principal bass of the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin and since 2009 principal bass of the Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra). As guest Principal bass he has played with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Currently he is a professor of bass at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin, teacher at the Karajan Academy and visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music London (where he has been honoured with and at the Folkwang Hochschule für Musik in Essen. He has given masterclasses throughout Europe and Asia and has held summer courses in Orford, Canada and in Lisbon, Portugal. He has played chamber music with Leonidas Kavakos, Christian Tetzlaff, Pekka Kuusisto, Jack Liebeck, Brett Dean, Nicolas Altstaedt, Alban Gerhardt, Julian Steckel, Adrian Brendel, Till Fellner, Imogen Cooper, Radovan Vlatkovic, Radek Barborak, Mark Padmore, the Kuss Quartet, Atos Piano Trio, Ensemble 360, London Bridge ensemble, Scharoun Ensemble, Berlin Philharmonic Octett. He is regular guest at the Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music weeks and has performed at the Lucerne festival, Zagreb Festival, Winterfest, Winchester Festival, Music at Plush Festival.