Beloved Music Takes Center Stage

The Omaha Symphony Orchestra has it.


“Nostalgia and Fantasy” are the words used to describe the essence of Omaha Symphony’s final concert of this season. This apt description of the joyful finale, personifies three differing parts of the world, evoked in suites full of sweet harmonies and soaring, dynamic drama.

Much charm pervades Samuel Barber’s lyrical re-visit to the kind of elegant American popular music extant during the earliest days of the 20th Century. His loving look back is called, appropriately, Souvenirs, a six-part suite featuring such dances as a schottische, a two-step and a tango. Stepping off from pieces for a piano duet in 1952, he soon filled that out to become a ballet, a divertissement, harking back to carefree times, “not in irony or with tongue in cheek, but in amused tenderness,” he said. Nostalgia personified.

Richard Strauss, in 1911, also cherished a bygone era, embracing 18th century Vienna for romance and comedy in his opera Der Rosenkavalier. In a 1945 suite from it, of course, no voices sing. But annotator Paul Schiavo points out that much of the psychological depth of the story comes from the orchestra, sometimes identified as “a leading character,…mocking, affectionate and philosophical.” This beloved score, like Barber’s, features the kind of dance music bound not only to be familiar but also rich in atmosphere. Once again nostalgia takes center stage.

As for fantasy, what could be more dramatic and colorful than Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s delving into the world-famed classic collection of Islamic folk legends Tales of the Arabian Nights? Scheherazade melodically explores some of what that clever, inventive woman came up with to enchant her Sultan husband and, keeping him fascinated, made herself so treasured a part of his life that he couldn’t bear to be without her.

Rimsky-Korsakov, writing this enduring and famed, symphony-like orchestral marvel, explained that he was not trying to tell a story himself but rather that hearers should let their own imaginations take them wherever they want to go. And come away with the impression of “beyond doubt an Oriental narrative of some numerous and varied fairy-tale wonders.”  The narrative thread belongs to a solo violin, in this instance in the hands of Susanna Perry Gilmore.

Music Director Thomas Wilkins conducts this inevitably appealing concert where, within, many kinds of love also sparkle and shine.

The Omaha Symphony concert is June 3 & 4 at Kiewit Hall, Holland Center, 1200 Douglas St. Fri. & Sat. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $19-$70. www.omahasymphony.org


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