Walter Bitner

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Martin & Sebastian

Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the church door ~ 1878 painting by Julius Hübner (1806-1882) click images to enlarge

This week marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This protest against the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church led to the social, cultural, and philosophical revolution we now call the Reformation – which in turn led to many changes in the abilities of governments and religions to control the personal lives of individuals in Western Civilization, among other things.

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Chamber Music Series 2017-18 at the Nashville Symphony

Registration for free tickets to our next performance in the Nashville Series Chamber Music Series  featuring Roger Wiesmeyer is now open. In fact, the entire season’s programming for this series has been announced.

Formerly known as OnStage, this popular series of informal chamber music performances designed and performed by Nashville Symphony musicians has outgrown its previous format, and is now presented with attendees seated on the floor of the concert hall. The new setting will retain the relaxed and interactive concert experience that has made these events so popular with music lovers.

All Chamber Music Series concerts are presented in Laura Turner Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. These events are free and open to the public, but you must have a ticket to attend.

Here is the schedule for this season’s remaining Chamber Music Series concerts:

 

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2017 Composer Lab & Workshop

Next month, the Nashville Symphony will host our second Composer Lab & Workshop, an unique opportunity for young composers to hear their music performed by the Nashville Symphony and receive mentoring and feedback from orchestra professionals.

Four young composers had been selected for this year’s three day event from November 13 – 15, one of whom may potentially earn a performance of their work on the Nashville Symphony’s 2018/19 Classical Series.

FREE tickets are available now! to a performance on November 14 at which the Nashville Symphony, under the baton of Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero, will conduct the selected work by each of this year’s Composer Lab Fellows.

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Peter and the Wolf

Soviet art depicting Peter and the Wolf ~ Peter is dressed in a Young Pioneer uniform (click images to enlarge)

It’s one of the most often performed works in the orchestral repertoire, and with good reason: Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf may be the most ingeniously composed piece of musical storytelling ever written for children.

This month, the Nashville Symphony performed Peter and the Wolf for thousands of local elementary school students as the featured work on this season’s Young People’s Concert for 3rd and 4th graders. I had not heard the piece for a while. Over the last couple weeks as I observed our superlative orchestra performing Prokofiev’s masterpiece for rapt audiences of children, I thought about the unique power of music to invigorate and develop a child’s imagination.
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The Firebird

Image credit: snob.ru, Wikimedia Commons, veche.razved.ca

It is 1980, and I am 14 years old. I don’t know exactly when this happened but I feel sure it was in the summer or fall. I am standing before the record player I had received for Christmas a few years earlier, in my adolescent lair in the basement of my parent’s house in Camillus, New York. The turntable could be rotated on its side to hide within the wooden cabinet in which it was housed when not in use, and the spindle could accommodate up to 6 LPs at a time (by the time of this memory I had learned never to do this, with the hope of preserving the quality of my record collection as long as possible).

I have just unwrapped the 3 LP set Yessongs from its plastic shrink wrap and set the needle down on the record at the beginning of side A of the first LP. Yes was my favorite rock band when I was in high school (they still are) and I have saved up money from several weeks of early mornings on my bicycle delivering newspapers to buy this, only the second triple album in my collection (the first was Keith Jarrett’s Solo Concerts Bremen / Lausanne).

As I marvel at the stunning artwork by Roger Dean that not only adorns the cover but in fact nearly every surface of the package, what I hear at first are the sounds of an arena crowd anticipating a Yes concert to begin – Yessongs was the band’s first live album. But when the music begins, it isn’t Yes at all – instead I hear the tender horn solo over quiet tremolo chords in the strings that begins the Finale of Igor Stravinsky’s 1910 ballet score The Firebird.

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2017 Gateways Music Festival

(l to r) William Johnson, Patricia Silva Weitzel, Anthony Morris, Evan Cannon after a performance at Gateways Music Festival, Rochester City Hall Council Chambers, August 11, 2017 (click all photos to enlarge)

Last month I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Gateways Music Festival in Rochester, New York. Now in its 24th year, Gateways connects and supports professional classical musicians of African descent, and brings more than 50 solo, chamber, and orchestral performances to the Rochester community during the week of the festival. This was my first time attending a Gateways festival, and I was excited to witness several of the performances, meet friends and colleagues from around the country (and beyond), and make new ones.

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Martha Argerich: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon

(click photos to enlarge)

When Deutsche Grammophon released a box set of Martha Argerich’s complete recordings for their label in September 2015, I coveted it immediately, eventually succumbing to temptation and purchasing it for my CD library. This summer I made a project of slowly listening to all 48 CDs in order of release, savoring each recording and listening to many of them several times. OK, most of them.

Just in case you’re not a classical pianist, or slept through the last fifty years, Martha Argerich is widely regarded as one of our greatest living pianists, and certainly as one of the most important classical artists of the post-WWII era.

Which makes this stupendous collection – a wide-ranging survey of all of her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon and Philips spanning 55 years from 1959 to 2014 – perhaps the single greatest collection of recorded classical piano music in history. It’s astounding.

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Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony: Spring 2017 Review

Nashville Symphony Education & Community Engagement staff: (l to r) Walter Bitner, director; Kristen Freeman, coordinator; Kelley Bell, program manager; Kimberly Kraft McLemore, Accelerando Manager ~ January 10, 2017

The Memorial Day Weekend is behind us now – summer is just around the corner! Soon we will enter the last stage of the season – our annual Community Concerts series of “symphony under the stars” parks concerts which begin on Thursday, June 8 at Centennial Park. But first, let’s pause to look back on our activities in the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony since January.

It’s been an eventful spring for our department at the Nashville Symphony. This post is a summary of what we’ve been up to since I posted my review of 2016 fall EDCE programming. For many of the events and programs described here,  I have already written dedicated articles: for more details, follow the links! (Click photos to enlarge them.)

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Side By Side 2017

Curb Youth Symphony & Nashville Symphony musicians rehearse for the annual Side By Side performance, May 16, 2017 ~ photo by Kelley Bell (click to enlarge)

Last week – on Wednesday, May 17, Curb Youth Symphony joined the Nashville Symphony on the stage of Laura Turner Hall for our annual Side By Side concert. Curb Youth Symphony is directed by Carol Nies, and this year’s annual Side By Side event was conducted ( for the first time) by Nashville Symphony Music Director & Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. For two days many of Middle Tennessee’s most accomplished teenage musicians thronged the halls of Schermerhorn Symphony Center, rubbing shoulders with Nashville Symphony musicians backstage and sharing stands with them on stage as we rehearsed and performed this much anticipated event.

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Two Brahms Portraits

this print cropped from “Brahms at the Piano” by Willy von Beckerath (1868-1938) has hung over my piano at home since 1986

Johannes Brahms was born on this date 184 years ago: on May 7, 1833. The Brahms Bicentennial is only 16 years away!

Like Sebastian, Brahms is a composer whose music has been a deep and abiding presence in my life. Yet I have so far avoided writing much about his music here on Off The Podium. Beyond a reflection I wrote in 2015 after attending a performance of his Requiem, I have merely mentioned Brahms a few times in other articles. So far.

Today, in honor of Brahms’ Birthday, I offer these personal anecdotes:

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