Arctic birds are soloists in a 1972 concerto “Cantus Arcticus”  by Finland’s Einojuhani Rautavaara in this month’s Symphony Joslyn concert. The composer recorded them in his native land, sometimes modifying their songs, sometimes having orchestra winds imitate the sounds, in this neo-romantic work written when he was in his mid-40s. Rautavaara has a major reputation in his country and, early in his career, was encouraged by Jean Sibelius. There is kinship. Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony was propelled by witnessing swans in flight and the third part of this concerto features those real sounds.  

In 1950, also in his mid-40s, Benjamin Britten found kinship himself with an earlier countryman, late Renaissance English composer John Dowland, known for exploring sadness. Britten was moved to reflect on and incorporate some of those serious songs of sadness and turn them into a viola concerto “Lachrymae” (“Tears”) with a title borrowed from Dowland’s own for a seven-part composition. Brian Sherwood is the soloist.

One hundred years before, Robert Schumann was inspired by his new life along the Rhine. Thus his “Rhenish”  Symphony, often praised for a mixture of joy and power. Some of it comes from being much stirred by a cathedral procession in Cologne using a deliberately archaic style to represent that. Schumann intended no specific program meaning, but rather only wanted to convey his strong feelings.   

New Zealand-born, resident conductor for St. Louis Symphony, Gemma New conducts. She’s been presenting much-lauded multimedia concerts as music director of Ontario’s Hamilton Philharmonic and may feel right at home especially in Rautavaara’s electronic conceptions.  

This Symphony Joslyn concert is January 7, Joslyn Art Museum’s Witherspoon Hall, 2200 Dodge St. Sunday, 2 p.m. Tickets: $33. www.omahasymphony.org


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