My new work The Lost (viola and cello with orchestra) is the third in a series of orchestral concerti entitled Missed Tales, which explore the mysteries of nature and place within Celtic and Norse mythology.

The Lost refers to an ancient Celtic ritual conducted by the Scots and Picts in the undulating Irish and Scottish landscapes. A bonfire would be lit on the highest hill and would be used by farmers to light torches that would act as diviners for mapping out territory. The torches would then be placed in such a way as to enfold the most fertile land, which they called ‘The Lost’, a term that invokes the Celtic word for fire, Losaid.

Mary FinstererMary Finsterer. Photo © Dean Golja, Image United

The title sets up the expectation that something is missing. From this, what follows is an anticipation of fear and yearning. Yet in the context of the ancient Celtic ritual, The Lost represents a discovery of something that is precious, something connected to a source of life. The dichotomy of these two meanings act like a counterpoint or a tension which gives rise to a metaphysical shift. It is this interplay that I have worked with to shape the music.

My overall interest with this series resides as much in the narrative interpretations of myths and ancient rituals as it does with imagining their origins and reasons for certain beliefs. Whether these reasons are religious or superstitious, my rendering of them as interpretations within sonic landscapes is represented here as a place where time and space coincide and fuse together, creating something like a polyphony of ideas and sounds.

The piece responds to the open strings of the solo instruments, the viola and cello, drawing sonority and carving foundation from their earthy timbres. Branching out to neighbouring tones, an evolving sound palette evokes tension.

In the preparation of the work I am working closely with soloists Christopher Moore and Timo-Veikko Valve to bring the piece to life. I have constructed the piece drawing from harmonic material idiomatic to their instruments. Everything in the piece is referential to the concept of the work, creating a sound world that is a metaphor for the Earth and its relation to the complexity of life.

This work is dedicated to Kim Williams and his sister Candice.


Christopher Moore and Timo-Veikko Valve will perform the world premiere of Mary Finsterer’s Missed Tales III – The Lost with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at Hamer Hall, Melbourne, April 5 – 6

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