The Highlight of the 2009-10 Nashville Symphony Season? (Hint: It's Not Christopher Cross)
by Jim Ridley
on Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 7:09 AM
Sorry to hijack the proceedings away from English Only and the hijinks at the General Assembly--but I just might have the soundtrack.
Maybe you don't know the name Krzysztof Penderecki--to be honest, I didn't--but you've certainly heard his work.
Stanley Kubrick used the Polish conductor-composer's music to set the zero-degree mood for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. David Lynch wedded Penderecki to the nightmare soundscapes of Wild at Heart and Inland Empire, and Alfonso Cuaron affixed his terrifying Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima--excerpted above under an entirely appropriate black screen--to Children of Men's grim dystopia.
Even those who loathe The Exorcist (like me) admit that the unnerving Penderecki pieces deployed by director William Friedkin like buzzbombs on the soundtrack are beyond reproach. Hey, even The Onion commended him for winning a prestigious Atony Award.
Now comes word that Penderecki will be a special guest conductor of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra during its 2009-10 season, tickets for which just went on sale. Despite all the fanfare about the new season, little has been written about his appearance. It's understandable that coverage has focused mostly on the season's household names--actor Christopher Plummer, pianist Lang Lang, conductor Sir Neville Marriner (founder of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra), the pairing of Glen Campbell and "Wichita Lineman" composer Jimmy Webb. But Penderecki may be the most exciting name on the schedule, by virtue of being fresh, unexpected, and precisely the caliber of world-class talent folks were hoping the Schermerhorn Symphony Center would entice to Nashville.
Regarded in the 1960s as a provocateur along the lines of John Cage, he was initially noted for compositions that called for discordant note clusters and non-traditional instruments (remember typewriters?), as well as traditional instruments used in tradition-be-damned ways (the eerie scraping of a violin). In Nashville, he'll be conducting his Adagietto from Paradise Lost for English Horn and String Orchestra (with the NSO's Roger Wiesmeyer as English horn soloist) and his Concerto for Piano "Resurrection."
Frankly, next year we'd love to see the NSO apply the same spirit of adventure to its jazz offerings. No offense to Al Jarreau and Branford Marsalis, who will certainly fill seats. But the NSO is one of the only institutions in town with the clout, rep and resources to bring in a titan such as Ornette Coleman or Sonny Rollins--and the PR skill to encourage audiences to show up. The NSO website says there's still a guest jazz artist to be announced, so keep your fingers crossed.