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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.
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:
This weekend I was reminded of the embarrassment of riches we have in Music City. The symphony presented fabulous concerts on Friday and Saturday, featuring two works by American composer Michael Daugherty, both recent and one (Tales of Hemingway for Cello and Orchestra with the incomparable Zuill Bailey) a world premiere, alongside standard repertoire by Beethoven and Stravinsky. On Sunday, Music City Baroque presented their 10th Anniversary Season Finale with a performance of the Vivaldi Gloria at St. George’s Episcopal Church, and West End United Methodist Church presented a performance of A German Requiem by Johannes Brahms featuring their Chancel Choir under the direction of Matthew Phelps, with Margy Bredemann, soprano, and Jonathan Carle, baritone. Both of Sunday’s concerts were free.