"Birds Heterophony" -- the piece by Nishimura, commissioned by Japan's Kanazawa Ensemble in 1993 -- will receive its American premiere here in Spokane under the baton of resident conductor Morihiko Nakahara. "Heterophony" refers to the concept of having different people or different instruments make variations on the same tune, playing at the same time as other variations on the same tune. Dixieland jazz is a kind of heterophony, as the trombones, trumpets, clarinets and saxophones each try to outdo one another in their exuberant individual versions of the same tune played at the same time. While this technique is common in Asian music and African music, it is less familiar to Western cultures. It is easy to imagine that birds, who don't sing their bird calls in time with a metronome, or even in precision with one another, might make good subjects for musical heterophony. Much of Nishimura's piece will be ethereal and contemplative, though repetitive rhythmic ideas will drive the piece to a powerful conclusion.
Far different will be the natural musings of Sibelius. His second symphony, more or less a traditional symphony in form and content, will nonetheless reveal a sunny side to a composer we usually consider somber. Even though there is a Don Juan subtext to the symphony, including some encounters of Don Juan with Death, its beautiful themes and energetic Italianate rhythms make a triumphant impression -- so much so that this symphony became something of a call to independence for the Finns, who were under the yoke of Russia at the time of its composition.
Between these two pieces, Julie Albers, a rising young star in her 20s, will perform the Haydn cello concerto. You might think that all the pieces by a classical composer of the stature of Haydn would have been discovered long ago, but in fact his two cello concertos were only found and authenticated in the 1950s and '60s. The D major concerto, while not virtuosic in the same sense as the great Romantic and 20th-century cello concertos, still demands a great sense of classical style and elegance from its performers, as well as beautiful tone and impeccable phrasing. It has become one of the staples of the cello repertory in the past 50 years.
The contrast between Haydn's classical restraint and Nishimura's experimental heterophony should feed listeners' desires for both expansive and more introverted moods.
For a description of the concert: http://www.spokanesymphony.org/concert,3,classicsno3musicoftheearth
The Spokane Symphony performs music of Nishimura, Haydn and Sibelius on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 8 pm at the Fox. Tickets: $20-$42. Additional performance on Sunday, Nov. 9, at 3 pm. Tickets: $16-$39. Visit www.spokanesymphony.org or call 624-1200 or 325-SEAT.