Walter Bitner

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Category Archives: Orchestral

Ravel

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) ~ click images to enlarge

Today is March 7, the birthday of French composer Maurice Ravel. I remembered this because last night I was reading Jean Echenoz’s terrific biographical novel – unsurprisingly titled Ravel – and came across the passage in Chapter Five when the protagonist celebrates his fifty-third birthday with a big crowd in New York that includes George Gershwin, who played The Man I Love for him.

Although perhaps not a constant presence, Ravel’s music has been an important and recurring strand in the web of my musical life.

Do you like Ravel? I think it’s interesting that we understand this question to mean “Do you like Ravel’s music?”, as if the man and the music he wrote were the same thing.

I’ve never met anyone who admitted that they didn’t like Ravel’s music.

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SphinxConnect 2019

 

At the end of January I traveled to Detroit, Michigan to attend the largest and most impactful event of its kind: the 7th annual Sphinx conference “SphinxConnect” and the the 22nd annual Sphinx Competition. This is the fourth year in a row that I spent the first weekend of February in Detroit! and it was the third year in which I was engaged to be a speaker.

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Rain Music

Cliffs at Pourville Rain 1896 by Claude Monet (1840-1926)

It has been raining here for weeks. The rivers are overflowing their banks, school districts all over the region canceled classes yesterday because of flooding, and all of us who work downtown are watching the water rise anxiously.

It is difficult to escape a sense a déjà vu as memories of the 2010 flood that devastated our city resurface and fears that history could repeat itself arise.

As I drove into town this morning to produce our annual concerto competition, I found myself thinking about all of the music about rain that has been a part of my life.

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Side By Side 2018

Curb Youth Symphony musicians (Kaili Wang and Maggie Kasinger, concertmasters) begin rehearsal for the annual Side By Side Concert ~ May 14, 2018, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (click photos to enlarge)

On May 15, Curb Youth Symphony and the Nashville Symphony combined forces 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 Side By Side event was conducted for the second year in a row by Nashville Symphony Music Director & Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. On Monday and Tuesday last week, we enjoyed sharing our symphony home with many of Middle Tennessee’s most accomplished teenage musicians, as they rehearsed and performed alongside our own Nashville Symphony musicians as we prepared for and enjoyed this much anticipated annual event.

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Collaboration: The Association of British Orchestras Annual Conference 2018

Wales Millenium Center (click images to enlarge)

Continued from
Three Days in London

It was the second week of September, 2017 – the week after Labor Day here in the U.S., which is the traditional opening week for orchestras across the country. In Nashville, we were preparing for our Symphony Gala – a grand, festive event that opened our season this year with the incomparable John Williams conducting the Nashville Symphony in a concert of his own works. Symphony offices were already bustling with activity in preparation for this and so many other aspects involved in kicking off the new season.

I was already in a state of excitement when an email arrived in my Inbox from Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras inviting me to speak at their upcoming conference in Cardiff, Wales.

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Christmas Oratorio at West End United Methodist

West End Chancel Choir and Orchestra, Matthew Phelps, conductor, perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Part 1, BWV 248 ~ December 3, 2017, West End United Methodist Church, Nashville (click images to enlarge)

 

When I first met Dr. Matthew Phelps nearly two years ago, one of the first things he shared with me was his desire to present Sebastian’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 at West End during the advent season. I was excited to hear this, since the Christmas Oratorio is rarely performed compared to Sebastian’s other large scale choral works like the Passions and the B minor Mass, and I had never heard it performed live before. So when I found out earlier this fall that it was happening this year, I marked my calendar and made sure I could be there. (more…)

Nashville Philharmonic to Perform Brahms’ Double & Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music

(click images to enlarge)

Next month, violinist Denise Baker and cellist Michael Samis will join the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra directed by music director Christopher Norton in two performances of Johannes Brahms’ final orchestral work, the grand Double Concerto. The NPO’s annual December concerts this year will also include performances of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music in a version featuring violin soloist Jessica Blackwell, a quartet of (vocal) soloists and the NPO Festival Chorus.

Among Nashville’s several volunteer community orchestras, the NPO is the largest and most well-established (now celebrating their 15th season), performs the most demanding and developed series of concerts each year, and has a strong network of relationships with the Nashville Symphony. Denise Baker and Jessica Blackwell – who serve as co-concertmasters of the NPO as well as violin soloists on the upcoming concerts – and are both members of the symphony, and several other symphony musicians provide support and coaching to NPO musicians.

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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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