The Nashville Symphony Chorus takes its turn in the spotlight for the Nashville Symphony’s Classical Series concerts on November 21-23, joining the orchestra on a pair of works that have distinct literary ties – Vaughn Williams’ Serenade to Music and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s The Bells.
Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s poem of the same name, The Bells is a sweeping masterpiece that captures the human experience with magnificent writing for orchestra and chorus alike, while Serenade draws from the words of William Shakespeare. The latter work will also showcase 14 members of Nashville Symphony Chorus in featured soloist roles.
Between these two splendid and rarely performed pieces, the orchestra will perform Horatio Parker’s Organ Concerto with soloist Paul Jacobs, who is arguably the greatest organist working today. Parker is an unheralded turn-of-the-20th-century American composer, and this piece will be recorded live for future worldwide release on Naxos.
Great seats are available starting at $25 (prices subject to change, additional fees apply), and the Symphony’s Soundcheck program offers $10 tickets to students in K-12, college and graduate school.
About the Program
Vaughn Williams – Serenade to Music (1938)
- Williams composed Serenade at the behest of famed conductor Sir Henry Joseph Wood, best known for founding London’s celebrated annual concert series the Proms. The solo vocal parts were specifically written for 16 of Britain’s most prominent singers at the time.
- The text for Serenade is drawn from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, an adaptation of the exchange between lovers Jessica and Lorenzo, in which the newly eloped couple is gazing at the stars and reflecting on the magical atmosphere of the evening.
Horatio Parker – Concerto for the Organ with Orchestra in E-Flat Minor, Op. 55 (1902)
- Parker’s diverse and extensive catalog is highlighted by several choral compositions and his 1893 oratorio, Hora novissima, while his Mona was the first full-length opera written by an American ever produced at the Metropolitan Opera. Though a concerto for the organ was considered novel at the time Parker penned this piece, it was well received, with one critic heralding it as “an imposing and brilliant composition.”
- One of the most striking features of the Organ Concerto – the largest of Parker’s orchestral works – is the composer’s choice to omit the entire woodwind section. The soundscape is shaped by brass, timpani, harp and strings, with the solo organ expertly weaving in and out of the work, which builds to a thrilling finale.
Sergei Rachmaninoff – The Bells, Op. 35 (1913)
- Rachmaninoff is most often associated with the piano, but ceremonial bells were a central part of his upbringing and musical development. “The sound of church bells dominated all the cities of Russia I used to know,” he wrote in his memoirs. “They accompanied every Russian from childhood to the grave, and no composer could escape their influence.”
- The Bells was Rachmaninoff’s favorite work, as evidenced by his inclusion of it on the program for the final concert he conducted in 1941. He began writing the piece while on holiday in Rome, in the same apartment where Tchaikovsky had vacationed many years earlier, even using the same desk as his legendary predecessor.
- The text is an English translation of a Russian adaptation of Poe’s “The Bells,” comprised of four dramatically contrasting stanzas. Rachmaninoff structures these as four distinct movements in his choral symphony, each characterized by a unique atmosphere and a corresponding sequence of signature bell sounds.
About the Performers
Hailed by The New Yorker as “one of the major musicians of our time” and as “America’s leading organ performer” by The Economist, Paul Jacobs is a pioneer in the revival of symphonic organ music. Boasting an extraordinarily large repertoire, he has performed on five continents and in each of the 50 United States, and he is the only organist to ever win a GRAMMY® Award. Jacobs made musical history when, at age 23, he gave an 18-hour marathon performance of Bach’s complete organ works on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death.
Now in its sixth decade, the all-volunteer Nashville Symphony Chorus regularly presents significant works from the classical choral repertoire. Comprised of more than 150 members from throughout the Middle Tennessee community, the Chorus performs at least twice each season as part of the Nashville Symphony’s Classical Series, in addition to Handel’s Messiah each December and its annual Voices of Spring choral showcase.
Tickets for Rachmaninoff’s The Bells may be purchased:
- Online at NashvilleSymphony.org/TheBells
- Via phone at 615.687.6400
- At the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Box Office, One Symphony Place in downtown Nashville
Full program notes, artist bios, a Spotify playlist and more can be found at: www.nashvillesymphony.org/thebells.
The GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony has earned an international reputation for its innovative programming and its commitment to performing, recording and commissioning works by America’s leading composers. The Nashville Symphony has released more than 30 recordings on Naxos, which have received 24 GRAMMY® nominations and 13 GRAMMY® Awards, making it one of the most active recording orchestras in the country. The orchestra has also released recordings on Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and New West Records, among other labels. With more than 140 performances annually, the orchestra offers a broad range of classical, pops and jazz, and children’s concerts, while its extensive education and community engagement programs reached 45,000 children and adults during the 2018/19 season.