From the Nashville Symphony

Another Wonderful Night at the Schermerhorn

On the last weekend of October, 2022 the Nashville Symphony performed Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony “Pathétique” Op. 24 (1893), along with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C major K.299 (1778) and Nina Shekhar’s Lumina (2020), featuring the return of Vinay Parameswaran to the podium at Schermerhorn Symphony Hall in Nashville. For an excell

Nina Shekhar (Photo Shervin Lainez)

ent concert with a popular warhorse, the Symphony CEO Alan Valentine’s public statement that some patrons have given up on attending events at the symphony center because of traffic downtown and rowdy behavior on Broadway rang true–the hall was not very full and the din outside before and after the concert was typically LOUD.

The concert itself was wonderful. It opened with Shekhar’s Lumina. Detroit-born Shekhar is described on her website as “a composer who explores the intersection of identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter to create bold and intensely personal works.” The program for Lumina is given as exploring “…the spectrum of light and dark and the murkiness in between. Using swift contrasts between bright, sharp timbres and cloudy textures and dense harmonies, the piece captures sudden bursts of radiance amongst the eeriness of shadows.” It is a remarkable piece, who timbre and texture seems to be the primary determinant of form, much in the style of György Ligeti, but oddly more melodic. The intensity of the opening draws the attention in (a gesture powerful enough to transcend the cellphone ringing in the balcony seats) leading to a crescendo in a mass of sound. Acting Concertmaster Erin Hall’s leadership and crisp tone stood out in this piece wonderfully. The ending redrew the intensity in a brighter manner where one could almost glimpse Benjamin Britton’s sparkling detached ocean (the one that swallowed Peter Grimes).

Erik Gratton

The second piece of the evening was the Mozart, performed by the symphony’s own Éric Gratton (flute) and Licia Jaskunas (Harp). Mozart composed this Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra on commission from a wealthy father (flute) who wanted a piece to perform with his daughter (harp). Notoriously, Mozart was not particularly fond of the flute, and the score indicates that he was not too familiar with the harp (5 finger arpeggios, no lush chords of glissandos, etc), Gratton and Jaskunas nevertheless gave a pleasant interpretation of this piece.

The final piece of the evening was Tchaikovsky’s epic 6th Symphony, the “Pathétique.” The piece, an anti-heroic essay that turns the ideal of Beethoven’s middle period on its head, substitutes a finale for the third movement, pushing the catastrophic slow movement to the end. Parameswaran’s gentle, nuanced and detailed interpretation was extraordinary. He loosened the reigns just enough in the third movement to let the band run. In the fourth, perhaps helped by the intensity of the opening Lumina, the audience sat riveted as the tragedy unfolded. In a night where the applause seemed to happen at all the wrong places, this final movement was permitted to fade into silence without interruption, and then an exhilarating ovation closed a fantastic evening.

Licia Jaskunas

As I left the Schermerhorn, I noticed the coolness and the smell of fall in the air, even through the din of “bro country” pouring from the “Florida-Georgia Line.” Crossing toward the pedestrian bridge, thankful for the free parking by Nissan stadium, my wife and I were almost run down by a passing pick-up truck. On the Seigenthaler bridge, tipsy youngsters on the rent-a-scooters were equally treacherous, things we had to watch out for even as we paused to take in our beautiful city’s skyline and the marvelous trees whose colorful leaves were set ablaze by the approaching winter. Costumed revelers sang and gaily chatted over the busker’s appeals for financial recognition. Maybe CEO Valentine has a point, or maybe, as my wife says, folks should “lighten-up?” Either way, it isn’t nor will it every be perfect, but the Music City does have its moments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked as *