World premiere from a well-established American composer? Check. Top-shelf soloist playing a jewel of the concerto repertoire? Check. A couple of tried-and-true works that show off the full range and power of our orchestra? Uh, check.
You know, if I didn't remember a time when the Nashville Symphony was close to bankruptcy, I might start to take this stuff for granted.
When music director Giancarlo Guerrero talks about the symphony's commitment to new American music, he's not blowing smoke—this weekend's performance of Miguel del Aguila's The Fall of Cuzco will mark the second world premiere Guerrero has conducted here this fall.
Aguila left his native Uruguay in his early 20s for conservatory study in the U.S., then spent a decade studying and working in Vienna before finally settling in Southern California, where he's been building a solid reputation since 1992. The composer allows all of this varied background to feed a spontaneous and sometimes boisterous musical imagination: In his 1994 Conga Line in Hell, The New York Times found traces of jazz, salsa and "idiosyncratic pop" as well as a brief nod to Vienna. (Not to mention that any classical composer who names a piece Conga Line in Hell is worth further investigation.)
Working in practically every medium, from instrumental solo to full-scale opera, Aguila is presently in much demand—his music appears on over 20 CDs, and he had another major piece premiered this year by well-known guitarist Manuel Barrueco. For his Nashville Symphony commission, Aguila says he let memories of Andean folk music conjure visions of the Inca Empire's fall. It's intriguing to speculate what sort of musical imagery this creative approach may have provoked.
Powerful piano virtuoso Yefim Bronfman joins the orchestra for Béla Bartók's 1931 Piano Concerto No. 2. The pianist won a Grammy in 1997 for his recording of this same work, and he's been praised worldwide for his orchestral and chamber performances alike. He's toured in a duo with Emanuel Ax, and last year he was the soloist for season-opening concerts with the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.
The pianist's fame even extends beyond this world into the fictional one—Philip Roth, never one for understatement, had his narrator in The Human Stain describe Bronfman as a Promethean figure, a counterforce to human mortality. Check.
The concerto is among Bartók's most accessible works, from fanfare opening to rousing finale, but it's also a highly characteristic piece—tight motivic structure and counterpoint, folk-derived rhythmic drive, highly unusual orchestration and a bit of Bartók's trademark mysterious "night music."
The concert closes with György Ligeti's 1961 Atmosphères and Richard Strauss' Nietzschean hymn Also Sprach Zarathustra, two works widely familiar from their memorable appearances in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The orchestra has recourse to its full arsenal here, with Ligeti using huge wind and brass sections to build his dense and subtly colored textures, and Strauss literally pulling out all the stops (well, almost all)—we'll hear the seat-shaking power of the Schermerhorn's wonderful organ along with a couple of harps, a pair of piccolos and a contrabassoon just to be sure everyone's working.
With high-profile premiere performances and recordings, the Nashville Symphony is attracting more and more national attention these days. Get to know Maestro Guerrero soon, and you'll be able to say you knew him when.
We covered this. He is talented.
Does puke come in piles?
It's not because he's black, altho his being black & throwing it in our face…
Guys it's because he's black.
Damn good band. Wish they'd release that mashup as an mp3 or something, it's cool.