Samuel Syman – Canto a la Musica
I had never heard about Samuel Syman until this week when I was asked in class to search about a living Mexican composer. Without ideas I couldn`t help to keep thinking all the time about who I should write about. I asked the pianist who was accompanying me at that moment Dr. Nayeli Dousa, pianist professor at the Universidad Autonoma de Cd.Juarez (Mexico), if by any chance she would know a Mexican Composer she answered me with “Yes of course ! I did my doctoral dissertation about Samuel Syman piano pieces.” And that was how my interest in him started.
Samuel Syman was born in Mexico City in 1956, and he is a very recognized composer in Mexico and nowadays also in the world after becoming a faculty at the prestigious Julliard School. He studied medicine too but decided to be a musician and he probably did the right thing since he has won many awards as a musician and composer. He composed for all instrumental combinations and even music for movies. His style as a composer has similarities with other Mexican composers as Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chavez who also use Mexican nationalistic elements in their music. Dr. Dousa in her dissertation describes his music as “folk tunes, mariachi instrumentations and rhythms typical of Mexican music.” She says that we can also find some stylistic trends of Bartok, Prokofiev, impressionism, and jazz in his compositions.
When talking with my violinist friend Ana Ortiz about my homework and research about Samuel Syman, she got surprised since she has met him before. He came to El Paso in January 28, 2017 and she explained to me that the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestra, together with Juarez Esperanza Azteca performed a concert called “Mexico USA the Bridge” where they performed his piece for choral, orchestra, violin, and cello as soloists called “Canto a La Musica.” I was able to find interviews and a small documentary about him in youtube about this concert where he talks about this piece. Of course I tried to talk to him but he didn`t see my messages on Facebook yet so I wasn`t able to have interviews with him.
Since we have all this coincidences, I decided to talk a little about his piece “Canto a La Musica” performed here in El Paso and Juarez in January 28, 2017 and in January 11, 2016 for the Ezperanza Azteca Nacional en la sala Nezahualcoyotl with the recognized performers Yo-Yo Ma and Carlos Prieto.
“Canto a la Musica” is divided in 5 movements and I will briefly talk a little about the style and inspirations that we can find in each one of them .
- Cuando Sera- Begins very calm with the low strings followed by the soloists
- ( 2cellos or cello and violin) in a calm but happy melody which reminds me of a hymn in a church and finally the choral in a majestically moment asking “Cuando Sera” “When will it be.”
- Cadenza-Allegra – Only the soloists in a virtuosity moment and more atonal maybe, followed by the orchestra and choral in a more exciting moment with many scales for both soloists and orchestra. The cellos always with ostinato rhythm remind us of an army going to the war or Beethoven’s second movement Symphony 7 and again more calm in mariachi style in some few moments.
- Basta Eschucar- Only the choral sings this first part with a very calm and interesting melody with an emphasis in “Basta Escuchar” “You just need to ”
- Hay una voz – For me, this movement is extremely similar with the Mozart Requiem starting with the choral and orchestra in a sad melody when the choral stops and only cellos play is exactly the same as it happens in “Lacrimosa.” They talk about “Basta Escuchar la Musica” “you just need to listen the music.”
- En un lugar oculto – The theme is extremely familiar with the theme from the Pirates of Caribbean movie. It is very exciting starting with the soloists in a mariachi Mexican style and followed for choral winds.
To conclude we can certainly say that he have very strong inspirations in others actuals composers as John Williams and 20th century modern composition he utilizes Mexican themes in different ways mixing the Mexican theme in a very appropriated and soft way and not so directly as Silvestre Revueltas or even Carlos Chavez. His compositions are not centered only about Mexico what helps to have a more international approach and more usual melody’s but we can still felling the Mexican style there even if not that exposed.
Recordings accessed April 16, 2017
Orquestra, Filarmonica Juvenil, México-USA The Bridge Canto a la Música-Samuel Zyman por la Orquesta,January 29,2017.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIBYVFH482s (accesses April 17,2017)
Azteca,Esperanza , Concierto Orquestra Sinfonica Esperanza Azteca Nacoinal con YO-Yo ma y Carlos Prieto, En La sala NEZAHUALCOYOTL, january 11, 2016.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXVVqwa4nuU (accesses April 17,2017)
Orquestra,Filarmonica junenil, Canto a la Música-Samuel Zyman por la Orquesta Filarmónica Juvenil México-USA “The Bridge”, january 29, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIBYVFH482s(acesses April 17,2017)
Azteca,Esperanza,Con motivo del concierto de Esperanza Azteca con los chelistas Yo-Yo Ma y Carlos Prieto, Fundación Azteca encarga una obra al maestro Samuel Zyman, February 1, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoCM1TT2lqI(accesses April, 2017)
Azteca, Esperanza, Canto a la Música “Hay una voz” – Samuel Zyman, january 30 2017.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2GHFXdIPms (accesses April, 2017)
Azteca,Ezperanza “Canto a la Música”, The Bridge en El Paso, Texas, February 3, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uvr0yWyV98 (accesses April, 2017)
Dousa,Nayeli. “The Piano Works of a Contemporary Mexican Expatriate Samuel Zyman`s two Motions in One Movement and variations on an Original Theme”The University of Arizona (April 16, 2013) http://arizona.openrepository.com/arizona/handle/10150/294018 (accesses April 17,2017
Dousa,Nayeli “Samuel Zyman`s Two Motions in One movement:Forging a Unique Contemporary Musical Voice through a Blend of Diverse Modern Influences” Universidade Autonoma de Cd.Juarez(Mexico) Department of Music(Janurary3-6,2015) http://www.huichawaii.org/assets/dousa%2C-nayeli—2015-ahse-huic.pdf (accesses April 17, 2017