The chorus of thousands of birds from northern Finland will greet the audience at the Orpheum Theater Friday night and, in a symbolic way, serve as an introduction to the second piece on the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s next offering in its Classics Series.
Finnish composer Einojuahni Rautavaara’s “Cantus Arcticus (Arctic Songs) Concerto for Birds and Orchestra” will open the evening’s program, featuring a backdrop of bird calls recorded during spring mating season at a wildlife sanctuary near the Arctic Circle. The orchestral accompaniment to the piece, consisting largely of flutes, woodwinds and horns will set the stage for the next selection, Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s “Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra” with guest soloist Christopher Pell.
Pell was the principal clarinetist for the LPO when he was selected two years ago as a soloist for the concerto. In May, Pell joined the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra as principal clarinetist, but the LPO date was kept open for him.
“I’ve been missing the orchestra," Pell said. "For the six years I lived there, it became my musical family.”
In addition to the Nielsen concerto, the LPO will also perform Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. LPO music director Carlos Miguel Prieto will conduct.
The 24-minute-long “Clarinet Concerto” will feature the rolling of a snare drum during some of the clarinet solos. It's an unusual instrumental arrangement, according to Pell.
“The snare drum pops up during some of the hardest moments for the clarinetist,” Pell said. “The odd thing is that the orchestra kind of drops out, and it’s just the clarinet and the snare.”
The piece is generally considered a single movement broken down into four sections, but, according to Pell, it could also be broken down into three distinct movements, the first of which features two lengthy clarinet cadenzas (solos) that might be more familiar to listeners than those of the second and third movements.
“One of the biggest issues with the piece is that there’s a tendency to want to go for the loud stuff,” Pell said. “However, there are many sections where it can be a little more contemplative, more serene and melancholic. If you take the opportunity to express that side of Nielsen’s composition style, then it brings out a whole new element, and Carlos is really great at getting the softer emotions out of the orchestra.”
Opening the evening’s program, Rautavaara’s 18-minute piece will feature a backdrop of bird calls. Composed in 1972, the work’s three movements center on the mating calls of different bird species, especially larks and swans. The instrumentation — primarily flutes, woodwinds and horns — closely mimics the natural birdsong heard on the recordings.
Although Rautavaara (1928-2016) is less widely known than his Finnish contemporary and early mentor, Jean Sibelius, his compositional output was prodigious. Among his contributions to the classical music canon are eight symphonies, nine operas, 12 concerti and numerous chamber works. “Cantus Arcticus” Opus 61 is one of his most famous and widely performed.
The evening’s second half will be entirely taken up by the lively, 40-minute Brahms symphony set at an allegro tempo for three of its four movements. The work was composed in 1885, just 12 years before the composer’s death. It was Brahms’ fourth and final full symphony and one of the last pieces he personally conducted.
Up next for the LPO, on Oct. 18, will be a performance of Mozart’s longest and final symphony (No. 41 “Jupiter”) composed in 1788. Opening the program will be Igor Stravinsky’s “Danses concertantes” for chamber orchestra, then a piece titled “Trouble” for violin and chamber orchestra.
“Trouble,” which premiered in June 2017 at California’s Ojai Music Festival, was composed by Indian-American jazz pianist Vijay Iyer. It will feature Jennifer Koh as the violin soloist.
Gemma New, music director of the Hamilton (Ontario) Philharmonic Orchestra, guest conducts this one-night-only performance at the Orpheum.
LPO presents Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto | Brahms’ 4th Symphony
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 12)
INFO: (504) 523-6530, lpomusic.com