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Fingal's Cave rewards travelers to the Scottish Hebrides with wild beauty, filling their ears with the strange melodies of roaring surf echoed through stone chambers.

Most of us will never travel to that storied sea cave. Nor will we hear the mythic siren songs that drew sailors to their doom on other seas. Yet the emotional pith of such experiences is accessible to those who hear Mendelssohn's "Fingal's Cave" or Debussy's "Sirens," and that's what Saturday's concert of the Salt Lake Symphony, "The Heights of the Imagination," is all about.

Fingal's Cave, the real-life setting for a heroic Celtic myth, was visited in 1829 by a young Felix Mendelssohn, who was inspired by its weird echoes and extravagant legends to write an early example of program music — intended to depict a particular scene, mood or story. The Salt Lake Symphony will play his colorful tone poem with talented musicians from area high schools performing beside its players — a mutually beneficial experience.

"The students have this youthful enthusiasm and energy that bleeds into the orchestra," Baldwin said. "And the orchestra players have experience to help them refine their skills."

Another example of music meant to convey specific sensory images is Debussy's "Nocturnes," an orchestral piece whose three movements are titled to suggest their subjects: "Clouds," "Festivals" and "Sirens."

The singers of the University of Utah Women's Choir will join the Salt Lake Symphony for the third movement of the "Nocturnes," their wordless melodies recalling the temptresses who wrecked guileless sailors on the rocky shoals of myth.

"When it comes to exploration of the musical imagination, probably nobody does that better than Debussy, especially when it comes to painting these wonderful sound pictures," Baldwin said.

Baldwin selected violinist Jenny Oaks Baker as the guest soloist. She's a Utah native who went on to a professional career in Washington, D.C.'s National Symphony Orchestra and soloist with other orchestras. "We'll have a lot of students there who she's a role model for, and they will love to see her perform," Baldwin said.

Baker's selections lend themselves to the evening's theme. Though Saint-Saëns' "Rondo Capriccioso" for violin and orchestra isn't strictly programmatic, it's greatly imaginative. The title suggests a turbo-charged flight of fancy, and that's what the "Capriccioso" delivers. A virtuoso showpiece, it was written for 19th-century violin legend Pablo Sarasate and is performed frequently by the greatest violinists of this day.

Baker's other selections also qualify as forays into world of dreams and fairy tales. She'll choose from tracks on her 10th album, "Wish Upon a Star: A Tribute to the Music of Walt Disney," released last August.

Utah musician Kurt Bestor wrote the album's clever arrangements of Disney tunes to suit Baker's talents. As the mother of four children under age 11, she has heard plenty of Disney music in the past decade. "I loved it when I grew up with it, and since having children, I love it even more," she said.

Bestor's arrangements find new realms of interest in familiar songs, she said, such a turning "A Whole New World" (from "Aladdin") into a tango — and "everything's better as a tango."

Some of the arrangements are tender and simple, but others are fantasialike treatments that call for extreme virtuosity from the violin soloist.

" 'Once Upon a Dream' from 'Sleeping Beauty' sounds like a carousel, and it's the hardest piece I've ever recorded," Baker said. "Kurt put a little Paganini in it for me. It's fun to play, but I really say my prayers before I do. It keeps me honest."

Baker, who lives in Maryland with her family but summers in Park City, has built a thriving career as a recording artist, allowing her to successfully blend motherhood and musicianship. Her albums have sold more than 150,000 copies; 2010's "Then Sings My Soul" hit No. 1 on the Billboard Classical charts.

"It's nice to know that my albums are performing for me all across the world when I'm home reading my kids a story," she said.

This time, though, Baker is playing live with avocational musicians of the Salt Lake Symphony who love music as much as she does, according to Baldwin.

"I just love working with this particular orchestra, because it's a collection of individuals doing music for all the right reasons," he said. "Music may not be their profession, but it's their life."

Imagine this

The Salt Lake Symphony presents "The Heights of the Imagination," a concert conducted by Robert Baldwin, with guest violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, the University of Utah Women's Choir and high-school musicians from along the Wasatch Front.

When • Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.

Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, 1365 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City.

Learn more • Baldwin will present a free preconcert discussion from 6:15 to 7 p.m. in Room 270 behind the concert hall.

Tickets • $10; $5 for students and seniors; at 801-531-7501 or at the door.

Listen up • Baker will play Saint-Saëns' "Rondo Capriccioso" for violin and orchestra, a piece that is frequently performed by the world's greatest violinists. Hear Itzhak Perlman's take at