Matthew Charles Weiss
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The Octava Chamber Orchestra
Seattle, WA USA

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Historicism is a contemporary movement in the arts whose practitioners create new works based on traditional genres and styles. It represents a radical departure from twentieth-century academic modernism, whose adherents attempted to break with the past and focus on novel, often experimental forms of expression. Historicist composers, many of whom have pursued careers outside of academe, write new music in tonal or modal idioms, often with a view towards sustaining classical aesthetic principles and achieving maximum intellectual and emotional engagement with their audiences. Although some choose to revisit a particular period style, the relative prominence of historical influences and newly emergent elements in a given work or a given composer's oeuvre can be extremely variable. Historicism has always been a vital force in the arts, and its resurgence in the twenty-first century through the cooperative efforts of such organizations as The Delian Society is a positive reaffirmation of the creative presence of the past.

Click on the names of the pieces or their movements below to hear the live performances from our concert...

Joseph Dillon Ford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Concerto for Harpsichord
i. Allegro moderato
ii. Larghetto cantabile
iii. Allegretto grazioso
Lisa Michele Lewis, harpsichord
Matthew Weiss, violin
Philip Nation, violin
Jenn Glenn, viola
Chris Worswick, cello
Thomas Matyas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Variations and Fugue on “La Folia”
Lisa Michele Lewis, harpsichord
Kevin Riley. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Partita for Solo Violin
Matthew Weiss, violin
Matthew Weiss . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Variations on “La Folia” for Two Violins
(re-recorded Dec 2012)
Matthew Weiss, violin
Stephen Daniels, violin

~ intermission ~

Carlos Caicedo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Poema for Voice and Strings
Cathy Sims, voice
Matthew Weiss, violin
Philip Nation, violin
Jenn Glenn, viola
Chris Worswick, violoncello
Nathan Jensen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .String Quartet
i. Bagatelle
ii. Pavanne
Matthew Weiss, violin
Philip Nation, violin
Jenn Glenn, viola
Chris Worswick, violoncello
Steven A. Jent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Two Rags for Solo Piano
i. Speakeasy
ii. Rondo Stomp
William Clarke, piano
André van Haren. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Moments for Violin and Piano
i. After Work, Late at Night
ii. Cat’s Play
iii. A Midday Nap
iv. At Work
v. Who’s There?
vi. Goodnight
vii. There He Goes!
Matthew Weiss, violin
William Clarke, piano

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Delian Society Suites

T h e    C o m p o s e r s    &    T h e i r    M u s i c

Carlos Caicedo (Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela) is a software developer, violist, and composer, and an active member of The Delian Society. His musical style is generally tonal, melodic, and eclectic. Poema was premiered in 2006 as one of ten works comprising the Delian Suite No. 2 created by an international cadre of composers, with British alto David Solomons as soloist and creative collaborator. It's Spanish text was accompanied by a short story, “The Strange Tale of Alfredo Nemo,” which Solomons describes as “a dark story of unrequited love with echos of ‘La Belle Dame sans merci.’” The music itself is intensely romantic, imbued with a decidedly operatic theatricality—and at least a touch of ironic humor.
Joseph Dillon Ford (Gainesville, Florida) is founder of The Delian Society, an international body of women and men dedicated to the renaissance of tonal art music. He also holds a professional graduate degree in landscape architecture and has served on the faculties of several institutions, including Florida International University and Miami-Dade College. As a Variell Scholar at Harvard, he studied twentieth-century music with Ivan Tcherepnin and the music of Bach and Mozart with musicologist Christoph Wolff. Ford’s Concerto for Harpsichord vividly recalls the Baroque but introduces several unusual features not found in the keyboard concerti of Bach. Although the opening “Allegro moderato” in G minor makes use of a ritornello structure, the “Larghetto cantabile” which follows is cast in the unusual related key of C minor, introduces a singing syle recalling eighteenth-century opera, and ends on the dominant. This harmonic progression paves the way for the “Allegretto grazioso” finale in G major, whose variations are based on Bach’s own chorale setting of “Dir, dir, Jehovah, will ich singen” (BWV 299).
André van Haren (Gothenburg, Sweden) was born in Holland, where he attended conservatory at Utrecht as a student of piano and composition. Since 2003 he has lived and worked in Sweden. Moments—Daily Impressions was originally conceived in 2008 as an autobiographical piano suite. In “After Work, Late at Night,” the composer describes coming home from the job “tired, longing to relax,” then sitting at the piano “to improvise, after which the first notes of this movement came out.” “Cat’s Play” depicts his three cats as they run, hide, and go on the attack. Afterwards they take “A Midday Nap,” “bundled together as close to each other as possible on our sofa, while in the background the soft ticking of our wall clock can be heard.” “At Work” recalls the stressful holiday season, and is “all about running, serving the food, and screaming for plates!” “Who’s There?” evokes “that feeling in the middle of the night when your family is asleep, the lights are dimmed, and the TV is off,” when one suddenly wonders, “Did I hear someone breathing behind me?” “Goodnight” signals the end of the day when it is finally time to go to bed, but with “There He Goes!” the cats resume their antics and there is “NO Way that they will let you sleep in peace!”
Steven A. Jent (Denton, Texas) began writing music when he was a teenager in a garage band, but his career path eventually took him to IBM, where he spent many productive years as a software developer. When personal computers and MIDI arrived in the 1980s, he “was still working from instinct and trial-and-error,” but ultimately found time to pursue formal instruction in composition at The University of North Texas. The composer describes “Speakeasy” as “my idea of what you might hear coming from a rickety upright piano in a Prohibition bar: a little ragtime, a little Tin Pan Alley.” With its swing tempo, “Rondo Stomp” is distinguished by “a touch of the '30s.” As Jent explains, “I gave it that name because of its A-B-A-C-A form, and because I just like the sound of ‘stomp’ in a title, like ‘Stompin' at the Savoy.’”
Nathan Jensen (Seattle, Washington) is organist and choir director at St. John United Lutheran Church in Seattle and organist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Ballard.  He is a local piano tuner and repairman who proudly sings with the Compline Choir at St. Mark’s Cathedral, rings the recently installed tower bells at the University of Washington, plays ballet piano for classes at the American Dance Institute in Greenwood, and leads the 188th Street Klezmer band for seders and Jewish weddings.  He studied piano with Anita Woolf, organ with David Dahl, composition with Timothy Brock, and violin with Phyllis Solter for whom this string quartet is written. Nathan has written for a wide variety of instruments and has also written a number of musicals.
Thomas Matyas (Buffalo, New York) is a mostly self-taught composer with an intense interest in Baroque music. An active member of The Delian Society, he began his Variations and Fugue on “La Folia” in 2004, basing it on a well-known sarabande-like chord progression known as “La Folia” possibly originating in seventeenth-century Portugal that has fascinated composers for centuries. The work begins with a simple chordal statement of the dignified theme, followed by ten diverse variations that feature everything from rippling arpeggios to dotted French overture rhythms to a two-part invention written in double counterpoint. The tenth variation, a stately adagio, leads without pause into a spirited fugue on a subject derived from the famous “Folia” material.
Kevin Riley (Andover, United Kingdom) is a music educator, conductor, brass specialist, and arranger. Among his achievements were nine years of service as solo trombonist in the Band of the The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. Riley is now Musical Director of The Allegro Wind Band and The Andover Light Orchestra and teaches at the Thorngrove School in Berkshire. Riley's Partita, unlike the traditional multi-movement suite, “is a continuous piece written for solo violin” that reveals his powerful melodic orientation. Originally dedicated to Karen Snook, leader of the Andover Light Orchestra, the Partita is written in a “quasi-baroque” style that artfully combines historical and contemporary stylistic elements.
Matthew Weiss (Seattle, Washington), pursues a busy career as a solo violinist, concertmaster, and chamber musician. His day job is as a Senior Network Adminstrator for the Department of Executive Services at King County, and he also is the concertmaster and president of the Octava Chamber Orchestra, concertmaster of the Seattle Bach Cantata Society, assistant concertmaster of the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, and first violinist in the one and only Trio Con Brio®. Matt is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Music (1991), where he earned his degree in violin performance after studying with Steven Staryk and serving under the baton of Maestro Peter Erös. His work is strongly informed by the mid to late romantic styles of Mendlessohn, Brahms, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Lizst, but also incorporates elements from other great traditions, including the classical music of India. His Variations on “La Folia” for Two Violins is composed mostly in the Italian style of Paganini, incorporating a healthy use of double-stops, virtuosic wrting for the violin, and so on. However, some variations could easily be called Baroque, some Classical, and one is definitely 20th century a la Ravel or Respighi. “La Folia” means “The Madness” and is related to English words such as “Fool”, “Folly” and so on. Each variation aims to depict this in some way or another. The last variations build to an exciting grand finale that includes elements of some of the previous variations of which the composer is the most fond.

Special thanks to George Shangrow for donating the use of his harpsichord for today's concert.

*     *     *     *     *

Dear André, Carlos, Cathy, Chris, Jenn, Kevin, Lisa, Matt, Nathan, Philip, Stephen, Steven, Tom, and William,

Together we've accomplished something extraordinary. On 19 July 2009 at the St. John United Lutheran Church in Seattle, as a result of collegial cooperation and dedicated artistry on an international scale, we brought the world what's likely to have been a first of its kind--a concert dedicated entirely to the work of living historicist composers. If you google "historicist composers concert," all five links that come up refer to that singular event. I've googled various combinations and permutations of these and similar words and phrases, and it really does appear that what we've done is unique. Ironically, you might even say that what we've done is downright innovative in the world of art music! Orpheus has returned from the Underworld, and this time Euridice stands beaming at his side in the full light of day.

Historicism itself is not, of course, a novelty. In fact, it has always been a powerful force in the history of the arts. You have only to think of the architecture of Washington, D.C., the classically inspired paintings of Jacques-Louis David that hang in the Louvre, or the history plays of William Shakespeare to be reassured that producing new art which draws abundantly on the past as a creative resource is not merely a legitimate practice but actually a well-respected tradition that has engaged the talents of some of humanity's most formidable intellects.

Why, then, is historicism such a "new" development in music? Why did it take composers so long to come around to celebrating the presence of the past in their art so publicly and unabashedly? Why, indeed, did the relationship between composers and history become so problematic that for much of the twentieth century tonality itself was dismissed as objectionably obsolete?

The answers to such questions are many and complex, and I've offered my own views about these and related questions in an illustrated book and other writings published online. The main point I'd like to make now, however, is that there has long been an indefensible double standard in the arts: authors have written and successfully published thousands of historical novels and plays; cinematographers have revisited the past in blockbuster films vividly depicting everything from life in ancient Egypt to the sinking of the Titanic; painters and photographers have steadily provided fine realistic portraits and landscapes; and architects and interior designers have enjoyed lucrative careers gratifying their clients' passions for various period styles. But woe betide the composer who dared to cross the illusory border between present and past and enter the "forbidden zone" of history: if s/he failed, at the very least, to filter "what was" through the distorting lens of modernism, then more often than not the music s/he composed was instantly invalidated as art and effectively drowned out by a dissonant chorus of critics and ivory tower elitists.

Our concert, however, is a positive indication that change is very much in the air. An enormous quantity of modernist music has after a century failed to win the sympathies of well-intentioned concertgoers and is likely to languish on the shelves of musty archives. Programs of "new music" more often than not raise suspicions rather than bright expectations, and even in academe may be poorly attended. In such a climate, I don't expect that historicist composers' concerts will instantly begin to draw enormous crowds, but once the music-loving public discovers that the face of "new music" is changing, and has begun once more to smile rather than to scowl at them, there's good reason to hope for a veritable renaissance of tonal art of a kind and on a scale that has never before been possible.

It will be in no small measure thanks to such extraordinary artists as yourselves that music will throw off the ideological straitjacket in which it was constrained for decades on end in the last century, erase the artificial boundaries of time and place imposed by institutional propagandists and academic careerists, and emerge in the new millennium as an art form that once more engages both the intellect and the affections of all those for whom beauty is not some antiquated, irrelevant illusion but one of the most enduring of the eternal verities.

With deepest gratitude to you all for a truly splendid achievement,


Joseph Dillon Ford
Founder, The Delian Society


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