A music composer often described as a child prodigy will be in Surrey for a concert with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on Friday, Feb. 28.
Fifteen-year-old Alma Deutscher, who wrote her first piano sonata at age six and her first short opera (“The Sweeper of Dreams”) at seven, has wowed audiences around the world with her talents as a violinist, pianist and composer.
In Surrey, as part of a regional tour, Alma will take the stage at Bell Performing Arts Centre in an 8 p.m. concert featuring her own “Piano Concerto in E-flat Major” along with Benjamin Britten’s “Canadian Carnival” and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 3, Scottish.”
Often compared to Mozart, another composer who wrote his first opera at age 11, Alma said she would prefer to be known as “the first Alma than to be the second Mozart.”
She was recently profiled on NBC Nightly News following her debut at New York’s Carnegie Hall, in a sold-out concert dedicated to her own compositions.
The British-born Alma says she hears music quite differently than other people.
“For me, it’s strange to walk around and not to have melodies popping into my head,” she told one interviewer. “When I was four, I just had these melodies and ideas in my head, and I would play them down at the piano. And sometimes my parents would think that I was just remembering music that I’d already heard before. But I said, ‘No, no, these are my melodies, that I composed.’”
In the “Surrey Nights” concert, Alma will be conducted by Canadian-born Stanley Dodds, the first member of the Berlin Philharmonic of Chinese descent and Principal Conductor of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Ticket and other concert details are posted to vancouversymphony.ca, or call 604-876-3434.
The concert will include a 7 p.m. lobby performance by student musicians who attend Fleetwood Park Secondary.
In a post on the VSO’s website, Alma describes the creation of the piano concerto to be performed at the Bell.
“My piano concerto was premiered in 2017 in Austria, with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra,” Alma wrote. “It is in E-flat Major, which is one of my favourite keys, and which was my absolute favourite when I was younger. I wrote the piano concerto ‘back to front,’ starting from the third movement, and then second and the first movement only at the end.
“The first movement was written in the spring of 2017. The main idea for it came to me when I was on a flight from England to Vienna. I heard a motive, and almost immediately two versions of this motive played in my head: a dark and dramatic version, and a light and much more lyrical version. For a while, these two versions ‘fought’ one another in my head, and eventually the whole movement turned into a conflict between light and darkness.
“The orchestral introduction starts with just two happy bars of E-flat Major,” Alma continues, “but it then plunges into the dark version of the motive in the third bar. After this dark chord, the orchestra cannot continue happily, and the rest of the orchestral introduction is in the darkness. It’s only the entrance of the piano that brings back the light, with a much happier version of the orchestral theme. The darkness comes back at various points during the movement, and especially at the end, where it tries to have the last word with fortissimo chords. But the light finally overcomes it.”