Walter Bitner

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14th Annual Mozart’s Birthday Concerts

detail from a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, painted in 1782 by his brother in law Joseph Lange. Mozart wrote the C minor piano concerto in the winter of 1785-86

detail from a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, painted in 1782 by his brother in law Joseph Lange. Mozart wrote the C minor piano concerto in the winter of 1785-86

This month Roger Wiesmeyer and an ensemble of local musicians – many of them members of the Nashville Symphony – will perform two benefit concerts for a local charity featuring music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as Roger has done every year at this time since 2003.

This year’s concerts will take place:

Friday, January 15, noon, at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Road, Nashville.

Sunday, January 31, 6 pm, at Edgehill United Methodist Church, 1502 Edgehill Avenue, Nashville.

This year’s concert features the C minor piano concerto, K. 491 conducted by Vinay Parameswaran with Roger as piano soloist. Admission is $10, and all proceeds benefit The Contributor.


Roger Wiesmeyer Plays Mozart

Roger Wiesmeyer

Roger Wiesmeyer

“I just adore it.” says Roger Wiesmeyer, speaking of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491. “I’ve never played it on piano before. I’ve sat in the orchestra for performances of this concerto three or four times and every time it just completely captures my imagination, for at least the week after – I’ll have at least two weeks of living with it and thinking about it all the time. There is this incredible mood that Mozart casts with this piece.”

A few days ago Roger and I sat down after a rehearsal to talk about this piece, which we will be collaborating together to perform this week.  Roger will be performing the solo piano part – the part originally played by Amadeus himself – and I am playing a reduction of the orchestra’s part on second piano for the first and third movements.  The second movement – a slow Larghetto – will be performed by Roger joined by Nashville Symphony musicians Kate Ladner, flute; Jeremy Williams, violin; and Keith Nicholas, cello in a quartet arrangement by Johann Nepomunk Hummel, an Austrian composer and pianist who was a contemporary of Beethoven.


Curb Concerto Competition 2016

IMG_4123Dear interested students, parents, and teachers,

This is an open letter discussing some policy changes (changes to the rules) for the annual Curb Concerto Competition at Schermerhorn Symphony Center this season.  Student musicians who are considering auditioning for the competition – which will be held on March 5 & 6, 2016 – are advised to read carefully through these changes, as are their teachers and anyone else involved in helping students prepare for this event.

Click here to access the complete guidelines and calendar regulating the competition posted on the Nashville Symphony website.  Please refer to this webpage for many details not discussed in this letter.  The purpose of this letter is to draw your attention to changes that have been made for the 2016 competition from the way things have been done in previous years.  These changes may affect the preparation of your audition, and how early you make your application.


Meet Olga Scheps

Photo: Uwe Arens / Sony classical

Photo: Uwe Arens / Sony classical

Olga Scheps seems poised to take on the world.  A young pianist with extraordinary powers of expression, Olga has been enchanting audiences throughout Europe for several years but seems to be little known in the United States, or in the general English-speaking world.  From what I have been able to learn, she has only appeared once in the U.S. – two performances of Liszt’s Concerto No. 2 with the San Antonio Symphony in 2012 – but from the pace of her concertizing and recording for the last few years, it seems like it will just be a matter of time before she begins to make similar strong impressions on music lovers on this side of the Atlantic.  In 2015 alone so far Olga has performed either solo recitals or as concerto soloist with orchestras throughout Germany where she lives, in Spain, Wales, and Japan, and made debuts in Israel and Sweden.  She records exclusively for Sony and has produced five CDs in the last six years – four solo recital discs and a luminous, touching recording of both Chopin concerti with Matthias Foremny and the Stuttgart Kammerorchester released in 2014.  Her latest recording – Vocalise – was released in Germany on July 17.

Olga’s repertoire is a balanced combination of the very familiar (read: warhorses) and the seldom performed, and she brings to everything she plays a deeply considered emotional sensitivity to the impulses that drive the music.  Although it is clear that she has the technical prowess and sheer muscle to pull off the grandest effects called for in the many masterpieces in her repertoire, it is the beautiful clarity of her approach to playing the piano and her attention to subtle details of expression which I find most remarkable.


Side By Side 2015

Nashville Symphony concertmaster Jun Iwasaki & Curb Youth Symphony violinist Maggie Kasinger backstage before the annual Side-By-Side concert, May 22, 2015

Nashville Symphony Concertmaster Jun Iwasaki & CYS Principal Second Violin Maggie Kasinger backstage before the annual Side-By-Side concert, May 21, 2015

This week the Nashville Symphony was joined by students from Curb Youth Symphony, Carol Nies, director, for our annual Side-By-Side Concert, featuring a truly massive combined orchestra on stage in Laura Turner Hall for a day of rehearsals on Wednesday and the performance on Thursday night.  The orchestra was conducted by Nashville Symphony Assistant Conductor Vinay Parameswaran on performances of Rossini’s Overture to William Tell, the third movement of the Violin Concerto No. 3 by Camille Saint-Saëns featuring 2015 Curb Competition winner Kaili Wang, and the Finale from Symphony No. 2 by Jean Sibelius.  The concert closed with a performance of Tchaikovsky’s masterful Romeo and Juliet Overture, conducted by Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero.

Spirits were high in the hall as symphony musicians were joined by teenagers from throughout Middle Tennessee – for many of our musicians this annual event is nostalgic and special as so many of them played in youth orchestras themselves when they were in high school.


Boy Wonder

The Nashville Symphony warms up in the pit at TPAC's jackson Hall before a performance of A Midsummer's Night Dream with the Nashville Ballet, April 24, 21015

The Nashville Symphony warms up in the pit at TPAC’s jackson Hall before a performance of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream with the Nashville Ballet, April 24, 2015

Nashville Symphony musicians are in the process of performing in three programs featuring the music of the German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn.  Beginning last Friday through Sunday, the symphony accompanied the Nashville Ballet in Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at TPAC’s Jackson Hall.

Then (TONIGHT) Wednesday evening, April 29, symphony violinist Jessica Blackwell leads two string ensembles in performances of Mendelssohn’s famous Octet, as well as the Prelude and Scherzo, Op. 11 for string octet by Dmitri Shostakovich, as part of our ongoing Onstage series of free chamber music performances at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Finally, beginning (TOMORROW)  Thursday, April 30 with performances following on Friday, May 1 and Saturday May 2, the symphony will perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with guest soloist Benjamin Pasternack in a program that also includes music by contemporary composer Frank Tichelli and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique”.


The Contestants


They arrive at the hall separately. After checking in at the registration table, they sit at tables in the dimly lit lobby and wait. There is some hushed conversation murmuring amongst the pillars but it is mostly between those that accompanied them; the contestants do not talk to each other.

All are teenagers. The rules specify that contestants must be at least fourteen and no older than eighteen the day of the competition – no regulation regarding school grade levels was made this year, so although most of them are in high school, there are two contestants who are college freshmen, and at least one eighth grader. Of the twenty-one who completed the application and are scheduled to audition, exactly two-thirds are girls. Originally nine boys were scheduled to compete but two withdrew in the past week, one of them bowing out only last night.