You may have heard of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, but this Saturday night it’s Brahms, Beethoven and Bryant – Alexandra Bryant, that is, a young Tacoma-born composer whose work “Strange Attractors” is getting a professional performance thanks to the Tacoma Symphony. The Pantages concert will be led by Paul Haas, the second of four candidates auditioning for the position of musical director, and will also feature Stephanie Leon Shames playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3, as well as the Brahms Fourth Symphony.
To be headlining two of the other great “B” composers is an honor, but it’s one Bryant deserves. Daughter of TSO violinist Andrea Bryant and a good violinist in her own right, Bryant grew up in Tacoma leading the UPS and Tacoma Youth symphonies. She went on to study composition at the Cleveland Institute and Rice University, and is currently finishing up her Ph.D. in composition at the University of Maryland. Her review in the Cleveland Plain Dealer as “a promising young composer” was picked up by TSO director Harvey Felder, who’d also been told by various orchestra members that he should listen to her work. Bryant’s “Strange Attractors” had in fact been premiered by the Tacoma Youth Orchestra in 2010, and it was this that Felder chose for Saturday’s “See Change II” concert, following a mission in this season to offer new works that had only one or two previous performances.
“I’m definitely excited about it,” said Bryant, who’ll be in town this week to work with Haas on the piece (and visit family, of course). “It’s a good feeling that what you’re doing is considered worth hearing.”
Bryant has made a few little revisions to the piece since it was last played in Tacoma, but mainly small things like dynamics, instrumentation and doubling. The essence of the piece stays the same: what Haas has called “a world within a piece” of extremes of volume and emotion. Starting with the unison piccolo and celeste opening of fast-leaping intervals, the piece is based on the mathematical principal it’s named after – that of a self-referencing dynamical system of numbers that seems chaotic but evolves into a subtle, complex pattern.
Says Bryant in her program notes: “Like these transient mathematical forms, the instrumental lines in “Strange Attractors” possess contours, shapes and melodies which recur in recognizable patterns throughout the piece, yet never twice repeat themselves in the exact same context.”
As a composer, Bryant feels she’s keeping her voice yet finding new ways to expand and refine it.
“Hopefully people will still sense the same composer, but a more mature one,” she says.
Folks curious to learn more about conducting candidate Paul Haas can read my interview with him here or in today’s paper. He’ll also be doing a pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, and a post-concert Q-&-A in the lobby.