January 22, 2018
Over the past couple of weeks, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra has stressed its commitment to important new works by premiering major concerto pieces by two outstanding local composers, John McPherson and Allan Gilliland. It's a testament to this orchestra's belief in new music that these commissions are not just for concert curtain-raisers, but substantial pieces.
It may also be worth pointing out that, while the McPherson work, Concerto for 2 Horns (Mountain Triptych), was part of our flagship Masters series, the Gilliland piece, Dreaming of the Masters IV, was premiered as part of our Pops series. Not a lot of orchestras commission pops works, I’m willing to bet. Allan’s jazz concerto is the latest of several we’ve done like this.
But a true test of an orchestra's faith in a commission is not performing it for the first time; it's standing behind it enough to present it again - and even again. With that in mind, I'm thrilled that the ESO is, for the third week in a row, featuring a major work that it commissioned. This weekend, it's a commission from 2003. Symphonies of Hidden Fire, by Allan Gordon Bell (pictured above), is one we've brought back a few times - we even took it to Ottawa in 2004. It’s an exciting, vibrant piece, and Mr. Bell’s own notes about it can be found here.
Symphonies of Hidden Fire is part of the Masters concerts this Friday & Saturday, January 26 & 27, which also features one of my desert-island pieces, Ravel's Concerto in G, with Angela Cheng back with us as soloist. Both Ms. Cheng and Mr. Bell have strong Edmonton connections. Angela was raised here, and the promise she showed as a talented youngster led to the creation of the wonderful Anne Burrows Foundation for Young Musicians. Allan, while born in Calgary and based back there now as a professor at the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the U of C, was a composition student at the University of Alberta, where he studied with Violet Archer, Malcolm Forsyth, and Manus Sasonkin.
Oh – one more quick note about the show this weekend. Our dear friend, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, was scheduled to conduct the concerts, but is unable to make it. We’re delighted that José-Luis Gomez, who has quickly beco me a favourite guest with us, is not only stepping in very last-minute, but will conduct the concert as scheduled, with no repertoire changes. That’s pretty amazing, too.