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About this Piece

Elysium; the everlasting paradise where heroes dwell. The pre-Hellenic Elysian Fields feature many of the tropes we have grown to associate with a paradisiacal afterlife including the absence of time, an endlessly bountiful and peaceful land in which to reside, and the presence of divine beings. Its earliest reference can be found in Homer’s Odyssey, itself the earliest work of Western literature whose origins as an epic poem date back to the Eighth Century BCE. While Homer’s Elysium is restricted to heroes and demigods, by the Fifth Century BCE and the time of the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles the entry requirements had relaxed somewhat to include the virtuous. This evolution reflects the changing attitudes and increasing upward mobility within the Greek city-state as well as the teachings of Empedocles himself, whose philosophy exerts a significant influence on Samy Moussa. Rather than remaining the sole preserve of the elite, immortal Elysium becomes the ultimate ethical aspiration for the common man in conjunction with a new quality of earthly life. This societal change is mirrored in the evolution of thought, ideas, and the spoken word that become evident throughout what would become known as the Golden Age of classical Hellenic society. 

Samy Moussa’s vision of Elysium carries Brucknerian undertones and begins with slowly shifting glissando chords leading to a leaping accompaniment motif from which a melody emerges. The accompaniment figure accelerates and the harmonic structure from the opening section returns. The music grows in waves and leads to the first climax of the piece.  

Following a short transition, the initial melody-accompaniment material re-appears in different orchestral colouring. A new pulse enters, growing in speed and volume until we reach the full, grandioso climax of the piece, with the glissandi from the opening ecstatically transformed. The coda makes use of the scurrying trumpet figuration from the climactic section before the accompaniment figure gradually returns, this time in a much more lyrical guise, to lead us to the conclusion of the piece.  

Elysium is dedicated to its commissioner, the Vienna Philharmonic. It is co-commissioned by the Festival de Lanaudière and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.