Concert Works

John Robert Matz

Composer for MEDIA and CONCERT HALL

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Music written for orchestra, wind ensemble, soloists, and small ensemble.


“Gods of the North” - For Wind Ensemble

1. Odin

Odin, also know as the "Allfather", is the ruler of Asgard, the realm of the gods.  Odin is frequently depicted as a god of war, intellect, and mysticism, and is served by two ravens, Huginn (mind) and Muninn (memory), through which he watches over Midgard (our realm).  

Beginning with a more contemplative moment, the piece depicts the ravens' daily reconnoiter, as Odin's theme is stated by a solo horn. Unfortunately, his raven companions bear ill tidings that bring Odin's more warlike qualities into play, and he prepares for bloody conflict, arming himself with his magic spear, Gungnir, and accompanied by the barks of his wolves, Geri and Freki.

2. Frigg

Frigg is Odin's wife, queen of the gods, and highest-ranked amongst the goddesses in the Norse pantheon.  She is the only other individual permitted to sit upon Hlidskjalf, the high seat from which Odin watches over the world.  A goddess of considerable power, she is a master of diplomacy, able to convince her husband to that her wishes are his, and goes so far as to obtain oaths of protection from all things to ensure her son, Baldr, is safe from harm.  Alas, due to Loki's trickery, Baldr is killed, sending Frigg into mourning.

Frigg's theme was written in imitation of the droning cadence of an ancient nordic bowed instrument called the tagelharpa, even as the middle section depicts a funereal chant for her lost son.  A brief outburst of anger is leveled towards the subject of the next movement before relaxing into a controlled placidity, befitting the queen of Asgard. 

3. Loki

Half-god, half-jötunn (giant), Loki is a mercurial figure in Norse myth, depicted helping as frequently as he is shown hinderingthe other gods and humanity in their tasks and quests.  A trickster, Loki has many magical abilities, including the ability to change form, a talent he uses with aplomb throughout the various Eddas of recorded myth.

Eminently unpredictable, Loki's theme winds itself around an angular tenor saxophone solo before devolving into a section depicting his dabbling with shapeshifting into some rather familiar aspects. 

4. Thor

Odin's most famed son, Thor, god of thunder, wields the magical hammer, Mjöllnir.  He is known for his grand adventures, battles against evil, and his protection of humanity.  He brings a rogue Loki to justice after Baldr's death, and is foretold to finally perish during Ragnarök after winning an epic battle with his longtime nemesis, the giant world-serpent, Jörmungandr.  

In this last movement, we hear Thor's theme rising, as if for one final battle, even as the wind picks up, and the fight is met.  As Thor's fury begins to make itself heard, Mjöllnir's theme, depicted as the flashing brass of trumpets and trombones, combines with the impact of the lightning and thunder it calls forth.  As the tide of battle turns, Thor's theme takes on a more heroic aspect, even as hints of Loki's machinations begin to weave their way through the fight.  At the climactic moment, our hero must make a decision that will either save or doom us all, as the sun rises once more over Midgard.

“Theseus” - For Wind Ensemble

Theseus is captured by King Minos, and, along with a party of other prisoners, is sentenced to be cast into the Labyrinth of Crete, the home of the deadly half-man, half-bull Minotaur. Right before he is thrown into the darkness, Theseus shares one final look with his love, the Princess Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos. The solo bassoon signals Theseus waking and gathering the other prisoners in order to try and survive. Led by Theseus, the captives decide to make their way through the maze. As they travel, their lament is represented through the chant that is sung by the ensemble. This is their cry. Suddenly, in the distance, the bellow of the Minotaur is heard, and fear strikes the heart of the party. It is in the midst of this panic that Theseus is calmed by his memory of Ariadne, her love, and the wisdom she shared with him. His reverie is broken again by the bellow of the Minotaur, who begins to chase him. The party has nowhere to hide; the Minotaur knows the maze, but the prisoners do not. Theseus plants both feet on the ground and prepares himself for the final battle.

“Shiloh” - For Wind Ensemble

“Shiloh” is a programmatic piece for wind ensemble. Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, it depicts the journey of a young man from boyhood innocence to adult maturity. In the initial section, he hears the call of his country amongst the innocence and idealism of his childhood home, and leaves to join the Union army. The second section depicts his indoctrination and military training, and, on the surface, demonstrates his more mature-seeming character. However, in the third section, which depicts the marching of his division into battle, he still shows a playful and overconfident attitude, unfamiliar, as he is, with the horrors of war. The fourth section depicts the titular battle proper, beginning nervously as the battle lines are drawn and the preparations made, before plunging into the bloody conflict, with cannon shot and rifle fire wreaking massive casualties on both sides, before culminating in a thunderous explosion. The fifth section depicts our protagonist rising, as it were, from the proverbial dust of the conflict, a changed man; his innocence stripped away, replaced with maturity, but at a cost. In the final coda, we feel that he has accomplished the task he set out to do; he has preserved his country, and is able, at last, to return home.

“Adventure for a Rainy Day” - For Solo Clarinet and Piano

Imagine a small boy at home on a rainy afternoon. He sits in a comfortable armchair, far too big for him, reaches up, and pulls down his favorite book from the shelf. It's a proper book, the sort bound with leather, and full of swordfights, romance, and swashbuckling. As he reads, the rain pattering on the windows becomes the background of the sea, and the characters come to life in his imagination. The story progresses through various stages, before building into a climactic battle between the hero and the villain, and, just when things are about to end triumphantly, the boy is snapped out of his reverie by his mother calling him from another room. With a sigh, he replaces his favorite book on the shelf, and exits the room, knowing full well that he will return.

“An Elmhurst Fanfare” - For 13 Instruments

A work based on the Elmhurst College Alma Mater, “An Elmhurst Fanfare” was written to give the graduating seniors of the Wind Ensemble Class of 2009 an exciting and energetic send off.

“Bottom’s Dream” - For Symphony Orchestra

A programmatic piece for symphony orchestra, based on the story of the character "Bottom", from W. Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". It follows his bombastic character from his time with the other tinkers as they rehearse their play, his transformation into an ass, his time with the Fairy Queen, and finally his awakening when the cock crows the next day, accompanied by the recollection of his adventures; "Bottom's Dream".

Apologies for the incredibly poor quality, I am awaiting a copy of an actual recording, this is simply a placeholder, played through Finale, using Garritan instruments.

*Music that paints a picture, tells a story, or illustrates an idea.

If you have read my notes on other pages of my site, you may have noticed that I have a fascination with stories.  Just as writing film and game music allows me to underline and enhance existing narratives, writing concert music allows me to tell stories of my own.  I believe that music, even music that isn’t strictly programmatic*, can and should, if not tell stories, then influence emotion.  After all, music and numbers are the only truly universal languages.  I prefer music.