This week, David Sussman will get to perform on an instrument so uncommon, there are reportedly only half a dozen of them in the entire province. Sussman, the Assistant Principal Oboe of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO), will play the oboe d’amore on Friday, May 24 for Bach@Knox: Ascension Oratorio, the opening night of the Orchestra’s annual Baroque music celebration at Knox United Church.
Sussman will be performing J.S. Bach’s Oboe d’Amore Concerto in A Major. “It’s a piece I love, it’s a beautiful piece, and we don’t get to hear the oboe d’amore very often,” he says, adding that the instrument’s range is representative of the human voice. “It’s sort of somewhere between the oboe and the English horn, and there aren’t that many of them around. I happen to own one, and I use it a couple times a year, particularly in music of Bach.”
In addition to being played on a unique instrument, the concerto itself is infrequently programmed. In his 38 seasons with the Orchestra, Sussman has only performed the piece on three occasions — and musicologists don’t actually know for sure whether this piece was even intended for the oboe d’amore. “Bach repurposed music all the time,” he explains. “This particular piece exists as a keyboard concerto. The range of it is such that it’s perfect for the oboe d’amore, and so it’s probably a pretty good bet that he might have repurposed it as an oboe d’amore concerto, but we’re not 100 per cent positive.”
Sussman is looking forward to performing the piece alongside his fellow CPO musicians. “You really feel the support, and you’re looking around and there’s people smiling,” he says. “Everybody’s rooting for you, and you’re making music with your colleagues that you really enjoy playing with. It’s just really fun.”
In addition to his role in the Orchestra, audience members might recognize Sussman’s name from the CPO’s Prelude Live magazine, which is available in the Jack Singer Concert Hall lobby at all concerts throughout the Season. For many years now, Sussman has contributed articles that can be found on the last page of each new edition of the magazine. “I think that music can be a very technical thing, and I always like when I see people that are able to explain what they’re doing, in a non-technical way, without using a lot of jargon, so that somebody of reasonable intelligence can understand exactly what they’re doing.”
Sussman joined the CPO back in 1981, and has observed tremendous growth and improvement in the nearly four decades since his audition. “The orchestra’s gotten better over the years,” he says. “So it’s like, I’ve gotten into a better orchestra without ever having to move.”
No doubt contributing to this growth are the 10 new musicians that joined the CPO this Season alone. In particular, the woodwind section has welcomed three new principal players out of four, including Sussman’s new stand partner, Principal Oboe Alex Klein. “Thirty-seven years — that’s a long time, and I was worried that it was going to be different,” he says of the recent transition. “I didn’t know what it was going to feel like, but I’m feeling very excited and refreshed!”
Written by guest contributor Jill Girgulis
Jill Girgulis is a student at the University of Calgary and a regular contributor for thegauntlet.ca as well as buzzfeed.com. When she’s not busy studying for her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, she can most often be found in one of the first three rows of the Jack Singer Concert Hall.