May 9, 2023
By D.T. Baker, Musicologist
This past season, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s New Music series has kept a spotlight on living composers. Against the grain of classical music’s reputation for music from bygone eras, the truth, of course, is that new and important works are being created all the time, and those who add to the canon of great music now ensure that will continue to happen.
The fourth and final concert of the series for the 2022/23 season takes place Friday, May 19. “Dark Patterns” is the name of the performance, curated and conducted by Montréal-born conductor-composer Samy Moussa. From his home in Berlin, where he has lived for about 15 years, Mr. Moussa spoke about choosing a program spotlighting his own works, but also music by composers he admires.
“It is probably expected,” he says of having his own compositions as part of the concert, “since it is a concert of living composers. “But I wanted to do a piece by Timo Andres – he’s an American composer, same generation as mine, and I think he’s an absolutely fabulous composer.”
Andres’ work Dark Patterns (which gave the concert its title) premiered less than a year ago, composed for the Colorado Music Festival. “I think he’s very talented and relevant,” Moussa continues. “So I really wanted to program him – and he’s a pianist, as well, so then the program evolved in a way where it makes sense. The connection is all the composers on the program are also performers: I’m a conductor, he’s a pianist, and Watkins is also a pianist.”
The Watkins mentioned is Welsh-born Huw Watkins. His Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello will be performed by ESO musicians Laura Veeze, Keith Hamm, and Julie Hereish. A work from 2015, it is the oldest work on the program – new music, indeed.
As for the works composed by Samy Moussa, who is making his ESO debut both as a conductor and composer, “Dark Patterns” will feature both his Second Symphony and his Violin Concerto “Adrano.” The latter was composed for a 2019 performance by the Montréal Symphony Orchestra – and a commercial recording of the work was made by them, featuring MSO member and Edmonton product Andrew Wan as soloist.
The symphony was written during a residency spent with the Toronto Symphony in 2021/22 as the orchestra’s first-ever Spotlight Artist, an appointment that provided him with unprecedented access to the orchestra’s resources.
Not yet 40 years old, Samy Moussa says he knew very early on in his life that both conducting and composing were going to feature in his life. “It was always what I wanted to do since quite a young age, before I was a teenager, actually,” he notes. “It was not really a career decision; it was something I wanted to do. I think it was that I was attracted to strong emotions – that’s what interested me.”
Each work on the program will offer a strong contrast in sonority. The Watkins work, of course, is a chamber piece for only three instruments. Moussa’s symphony has flugelhorns replacing trumpets, and euphoniums rather than tubas. But Moussa says he chose the works not necessarily because they were different from his own music – in fact, the reverse is true. “I think the fundament is similar – which is music that is functioning based on pitched material, and not so much on effects,” he explains. “That’s something we share, and that’s something that’s very important to me. Of course, there are differences, but I’m more interested in the similarities, actually.”
Friday, May 19, 2023 ● 7:30 PM