MATTHEW DE LACEY DAVIDSON (b. 1964, Toronto, Canada; now res. Montreal, Canada) holds degrees from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, the University of Toronto, Canada, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Apart from concertizing in Canada, New Zealand and the United States, with ragtime, early jazz, “classical” and contemporary music concerts, he actively promotes the work of other composers (both as performer and impresario) and his work has received radio broadcasts in New Zealand, North America and Europe.
Dr. Davidson studied piano privately with John Powell and Rae de Lisle in New Zealand (through whom a lineage may be traced to Franz Liszt), with Bruce Greenfield and Phillipa Ward at the Wellington Polytechnical Institute’s Executant Music Course in New Zealand, privately with Lawrence Pitchko and Harold Heap in Canada and with William Heiles at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the United States. As a composer, his works encompass almost every medium, including book, music and lyrics for two musical comedies, chamber music, improvisatory works, theater pieces, electronic and orchestral music.
Davidson is the recipient of commissions and awards from Victoria University, the Queen Elizabeth II (New Zealand national) arts council, the American (formerly Minnesota) Composers’ Forum, the University of Illinois, Meet the Composer/California, The Elgin Cultural Arts Commission, and he has been associated with the New York piano virtuoso of twentieth century music, Anthony De Mare. He has studied theory with Alexander Rapoport at the Royal Toronto Conservatory of Music (through whom a lineage may be traced to the Hochschule fur Musik in Vienna) and his principal composition teachers have been Jack Body in New Zealand, John Beckwith in Canada (through whom a lineage may be traced to Nadia Boulanger), and Salvatore Martirano in the United States. His music is published by Honeyrock Publications in Everett, Pennsylvania, and the Composers Association of New Zealand. His unpublished works are distributed by the Canadian Music Centre, The American Composers Alliance, SOUNZ, and the Bibliotheque Internationale de Musique Contemporaine in Paris, France. His complete works are held in archive at the Canadian Music Centre in Montreal, Quebec; and at the Alexander Turnbull Library division of the New Zealand National Library.
Some of his compact discs (e.g. the original Mastersound issue of “The Graceful Ghost”) have become collector’s items, and regularly sell on the internet for over $200.00. He has recorded for Stomp Off Records, Capstone Records, and the Mastersound label.
Dr. Davidson also holds a Masters degree in Social Work, and has written a non-fiction novel based on his experiences. He has published humorous essays, and in addition, he has published cartoons in New Zealand, Canada, and the United States in TOM Magazine, the Canadian Science News and the Chicago Flame.
Critical praise for Davidson has come from such diverse sources as Gramophone Magazin (”…a remarkably talented pianist…as a performer Davidson has few peers…”), to Steve O’Keefe in Cadence Magazine (”…this disk by…Matthew Davidson is extraordinary.”), to recording artist for Vanguard, Epic, New World Records and Omega Classics, Max Morath (”…his [Davidson’s] stunning premier performances…mark…this pianist for landmark status and accolades – adjectives for which one reaches for the Thesaurus: prodigious, consummate, mighty. Well – sublime.”). Of his latest album, Talencourt, www.hbdirect.com said: ”He has…achieved a fine reputation as a concert pianist…and…his chamber music experience has given him exceptional insight into the workings of solo and chamber string music.” Prominent violinist of the violinfutura project, Piotr Szewczyk, has described Davidson's compositions as "…very charming, sophisticated, and very innovative...".
I Had Five Long Years (for String Quartet) (1991)
This single movement work is structured as follows:
A - variation1(a) - var2(a) - B - var1(b) - var2(b) - var2(c) - var1(c) – C
Capital letters refer to themes, “var” refers to the different variations upon those themes. Although there is only one continuous movement, it is divided into three sections with the aforementioned contrasting variations.
“A” is a transcription of a prison work song I had five long years recorded at the notorious Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana in 1959 by Harry Oster (released on Folk-Lyric Recording Co., Louisiana Folklore Society). The original singer was James Russell and some other inmates. To appreciate the anguish and bitterness behind these prison songs, one must become familiar with the outrageous conditions to which inmates were subjected during its worst years. “B” is a transcription of the railroad song, John Henry as sung by Rich Amerson, a transient from Alabama as recorded by Harold Courlander in 1956 for Folkways Records. “I ain’t proud to be poor, but I ain’t too poor to be proud,” he was recorded as saying. Its treatment is also indicative of early jug band recordings of the 1920s which I enjoy. “C” is a transcription of the Bayou Teche Waltz as played by Columbus Fruge, a Cajun accordion player and singer recorded in the 1920s.
As stated previously, each transcription is dealt with in a set of two variations. Variation 1 is a polytonal variation to be played exactly as written. Variation 2 is an optional improvised section which can either be played exactly as notated or partially as notated and/or completely improvised thereupon. (World Premiere)