The Long Beach Symphony playing Barber and Mahler will host guest soprano Elissa Johnston.

Long Beach Symphony’s Northern Lights concert rooted in spirituality

The Long Beach Symphony’s next classical concert, on March 9 at 8:00 PM (Terrace Theater of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd.), explores music of various vintages from Finland, Iceland, and Russia.

Maestro Eckart Preu begins the program with a mesmerizing 1994 work – Symphony No. 7, Mvt 4, Angel of Light – by Finnish composer Rautavaara (b. 1928), whose mystical sounds will send listeners into the cosmos. Rautavaara’s music has, in fact, become a respectable alternative for those who seek spiritual contentment but have found new age music unfulfilling. Commenting on his works, Rautavaara said, “I felt self-conscious about putting angels in the titles of my works in the 1970s, when my colleagues were giving their works matter-of-fact titles such as Structures for Strings. Now, I feel self-conscious about the fact that angels have become popular in a banal sense with the New Age phenomenon.” The title notwithstanding, this work will provide listeners 36 minutes of spirituality and meditation.

The program remains in Finland for two works by Sibelius: his Symphony No. 3 in C major, op. 52 and his beautiful Finlandia, a moving work that opens with a brass choir, then segues into a string segment that evokes skirmishes, and ultimately culminates with a hymn section celebrating Finland’s independence from Russia.
Following intermission, guest cellist Joshua Roman will step to the stage for a work by living Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason (b. 1979), who is shaking up the classical music world with his interesting new sounds. The Symphony will play two movements from his riveting Bow to String (2010) that features lots of cello and percussion: the first entitled “Sorrow Conquers Happiness” and the third “Air to Breathe.” According to Bjarnason, “The first movement refers to an art installation by Ragnar Kjartansson in which he continually sings this song with the lyrics ‘Sorrow conquers happiness’ accompanied by a small orchestra. That’s the song (the chord progressions) you can hear in the first movement …. The whole piece in its three movements is moving from loud to quiet, from the earthly to the ethereal.”

Thirty-five-year-old Roman began playing the cello at the age of three on a quarter-size instrument and gave his first public recital at age ten. As well as being a celebrated performer, he is recognized as an accomplished composer and curator and was named a TED Senior Fellow in 2015. Composer Mason Bates, whose work was featured on the Symphony’s Opening Night concert this season, dedicated his Cello Concerto to Roman, who gave its “world-class world premiere” (Seattle Times) with the Seattle Symphony in 2014, and has since performed it with orchestras around the U.S. He also premiered his own cello concerto Awakening. In November 2016, Roman’s musical response to the tension around the U.S. Presidential election – Let’s Take a Breath – brought almost one million live viewers to TED’s Facebook page to hear him perform the complete Six Suites for Solo Cello by J.S. Bach.

Mr. Roman will again take the forefront to wrap up the evening with Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, op. 33 for cello and orchestra, which is actually an original theme in the Rococo style. The style was inspired by Mozart, whom Tchaikovsky much admired.

Concertgoers may enjoy the pre-concert talk that begins at 7:00 PM. For those who prefer to mix and mingle, there will be music in the lobby and, weather permitting, firepits outdoors on the plaza. Doors open at 6:30 PM and concert starts promptly at 8:00 PM.

Tickets to the concert start at $29 with student tickets available for $10. For more information or to purchase tickets and subscriptions visit or call 562-436-3203 ext. 1. Tickets are also available on

The Symphony’s full classical season, which runs through June 2019, will present masterworks of epic proportion, such as Beethoven’s 9th Symphony that ends with vocal soloists and chorus promoting universal brotherhood in the Ode to Joy libretto by Schiller, Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, Jupiter, Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music, as well as works by living composers.

This article was released by the Long Beach Symphony.