Three young composers selected by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) will premiere their new works during the weekend from June 16 to 18 at Roy Thomson Hall.
The program is completed with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 performed by the renowned pianist Yuja Wang.
Luis Ramirez, one of the three composers, said those two works along with Wang were always present in his MP3 player while he was growing up.
“So now to be part of that program, it just blows my mind,” he said.
Fjóla Evans is another of the three composers. Born in Ottawa to an Icelandic mother and Canadian father, she grew up playing the cello in Iceland.
She said her family came back to Toronto in a time when she was practicing a lot with the cello.
Evans shared in social media a picture of herself as a teenager playing the cello in her house’s washroom.
“There was a lot of people around and for some reason this bathroom was pretty quiet,” she said.
Evans said she liked the resonance of her instrument with the tile.
“I really like that kind of really resonant, booming sounds. Even then,” she said.
TSO said the program was created in 2020 “to support the development of early career composers ready to expand their skills in orchestral composition.”
Three composers are selected yearly to work with the orchestra. Evans, Ramirez and Matthew-John Knights were the trio chosen by TSO for its NextGen Composer program for the period 2022-2023.
Ramirez and Evans agree it was important for them to receive feedback from RBC Affiliate Composer Alison Yun-Fei Jiang and TSO Principal Librarian Chris Reiche Boucher.
“And then we’ve been working now with Gustavo [Gimeno], he joined for the rehearsal process,” Evans said.
Spaniard Gustavo Gimeno, TSO’s music director, said he selected Shostakovich’s First Symphony to complement the new creations.
“What you hear in Shostakovich’s First is an artist who is young, creative, searching,” he said.
The performance is scheduled to begin with Knight’s work Lines, Layers, Ligaments.
In TSO’s website Knights said he likes to explore the concept of lines in music.
“The orchestra’s members all work together like ligaments do,” he said.
Evans’ work called Hraunflæði is scheduled to be the second composition to be performed.
She said it was inspired by the eruption of Fagradalsfjall volcano in 2021 and how she saw the lava a few months after.
“It was still warm, you could feel the heat from it and you could feel the smell, the smell of the inside of the earth,” Evans said.
On the other hand, Ramirez’s work is based on how bodies react to spicy food, a cultural element of the land where he was born, Aguascalientes, Mexico.
“We get into this kind of survival mode where our bodies are reacting to it and it’s making us like sweat and then, you know, drop and sniffle,” he said.
All three composers said they are also involved in the academic world.
Ramirez completed his PhD in composition in 2018 and plans to return to teaching next year. Evans and Knights are completing their doctoral degrees in composition.
Looking ahead to the coming months, Ramirez and Evans said they are preparing compositions for quartets, soprano or chamber music.
“So kind of smaller groups, which I love doing, very different from writing for orchestra, which is also something that I love,” Evans said.