Dave Moss is an accomplished chamber musician who has performed with Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Jamie Laredo, Miriam Fried, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, and with members of the Juilliard, Guarneri, and Ying Quartets. As an orchestral musician he has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His interest in historical performance has led him to work recently with Tafelmusik and with tenor Mark Padmore at the Britten-Pears Festival, as well as performing with Haymarket Opera Company, Baroque Band, and Callipygian Players. Moss is a graduate of The Juilliard School and Oberlin Conservatory and is currently pursuing his MBA in finance at University of Chicago. Dave makes his home in Chicago, where he is on faculty of the Arts with Juilliard Program at the British International School.
How did you get started in music?
I was handed a violin at the age of two, likely before I was even potty-trained, as I was following in the footsteps of two older siblings who also played.
How did you come to play your instrument?
I made the switch to viola when I was a young teenager. I’d like to say it was a choice, but someone took away my violin and gave me a viola, which actually fit my personality (violists have more fun), and I thank that person every time I see them.
Do you have a favorite performer?
I certainly do! Mark Padmore (any Evangelist role), Xavier Sabata (his Handel is phenomenal), Artemis Quartet (with the late violist Friedemann Weigle), Riccardo Minasi (anything Vivaldi), and Fabio Biondi. I studied with Mr. Perlman, and the passion he brings to the stage is, in my opinion, unrivaled.
What are a few of your favorite books about music?
I enjoy reading treatises on performance practice - Leopold Mozart, Georg Muffat (his comments on violists are spectacular) and Johann Joachim Quantz. Joseph Polisi’s book The Artist as Citizen has played an instrumental role in my life. I particularly enjoyed Leon Fleisher’s book My Nine Lives: A Musical Memoir, which shows the infinite ways one can be a musician, performer, teacher, and human being. I’ve also been known to gush over books such as Mozart in the Jungle and Deborah Voigt’s Call me Debbie, which give an honest look into life as a musician.
What else are you reading?
I find myself reading a lot of books about entrepreneurs and creative thinking. Musicians have to continually reinvent themselves and act as someone running a small business, so I try to surround myself with these ideas. The list lately has been Ashlee Vance’s Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor, Carmine Gallo’s Talk like TED, Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World and Amy Whitaker’s Art Thinking.
Who are your favorite 17th- and 18th-century composers?
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, Georg Muffat, Marin Marais, Arcangelo Corelli, Carl Stamitz, Alessandro Rolla and Joseph Haydn.
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
No, I’d prefer to have more than one! If I had to choose one, though, it would likely be Biber’s Harmonia Artificiosa.
What drew you to early music and period instrument performance?
The ability to take something hundreds of years old and to approach it for the first time as if it is contemporary music. I also feel that period instrument performance can bring a level of intimacy and energy that is simply unmatched by modern performance ideology. I’ve also been infatuated with the historical context of the viola; we have such amazing instruments made by the great makers of the 17th and 18th centuries, yet the repertoire for solo viola or viola as a featured instrument is fairly underrepresented. I am always looking to unearth repertoire from this era that may have actually been written for viola!
How many instruments do you own?
I own two, have two others loaned to me and have a plethora of bows to accompany them.
Which one do you play the most?
I play the most on a viola made in the 1980s in Philadelphia by Helmut Keller. Viola Folklore tells that the wood of the instrument was found on the side of the road somewhere in New England, where a church was replacing its pews. This makes my instrument either very holy or many people have previously sat upon my instrument.
What are the main differences between your period instrument and its modern version?
My willingness to practice! I love spending personal time with my baroque and classical instruments. Seriously though, differences include the angle and length of the fingerboard, pure gut strings versus synthetic and steel-wound strings, bridges with varying amounts of surface area, the angle and shape of the tailpiece, and the lack of a chin rest.
What do you love about HOC?
The commitment to historical accuracy without ever becoming a museum piece. We find these works that still have such a modern-day significance and present them as if we are stepping back 300 years in time, where society had similar ideas, problems and solutions. We also believe these gems don’t need updating or modernizing in order for an audience member of any background to take something away. My colleagues aren’t too shabby, either!
Do you have a favorite rehearsal or concert memory from a past HOC event?
I have two favorite moments, and they are somewhat related. The first is watching it all come together every time we perform. When you see the dedication that goes into mounting a production of the caliber of a Haymarket opera or oratorio, you arrive so well-prepared that nothing can go wrong and the art can just exist. The second is an actual event, and it’s when our Artistic Director stunned us all by singing an accompanied recitative after intermission, thanking the audience in Italian for their support and asking for their continued donations. While he was showing off a bit, his dedication to growing this organization to employ artists and create art in a city as amazing as Chicago is a humbling experience.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?
I’m very dedicated to learning, so most of my time at the moment is coursework at University of Chicago for my MBA in Finance. I also love teaching and am on the faculty of Arts with Juilliard at the British International School. I am also a bit addicted to finding the perfect cup of coffee, can give you a dozen restaurants to try in Chicago, and am a whiskey fanatic. You can find me helping in the bottling (that’s filling the bottles!) at Journeyman Distillery or Fox River Distilling a few times each month.
What is the first thing you think about in the morning?
First thought is usually coffee, followed by asking myself what is for dinner, closely followed by thinking about practicing scales -- which I actually follow through with on most days!
How would you describe the relationship between you and your instrument?
She loves me, she loves me not.
Who are your musical heroes?
Artists who go beyond their role as performers and teachers. The idea of “the artist as citizen” was instilled upon me by Joseph Polisi while I was at The Juilliard School, and it has had a lasting effect. I’ve found such people throughout my career; while theirs aren’t necessarily names you might recognize, their importance to society is pivotal.
If you had to play only one composer for the rest of your career, whom would you choose?
What music do you listen to most often?
At the moment that would be Bach. I’ve set myself a goal of listening to each of the Cantatas in succession, and it has been a wild ride so far. I also find myself asking others what they are listening to, so that I may find new things. There is very little I won’t give a try once, and it’s an awesome way to understand where people are coming from. Music choices are very telling.
If you had not been a musician what do you think you would have done instead?
I would have been a golf professional or a small business owner, perhaps owning a distillery or coffee roaster. Who knows...there is still time!