Rachmaninoff’s Virtuosic Third Piano Concerto Headlines Nashville Symphony Performances on May 2-4

Pianist Simon Trpčeski makes Nashville debut as featured soloist on concerto.

Nashville, Tenn. (April 18, 2019) — The Nashville Symphony’s 2018/19 Classical Series resumes on May 2-4 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center with guest conductor Robert Spano leading a program headlined by Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. Jean Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony and contemporary composer Michael Gandolfi’s The Garden of Cosmic Speculation complete the program.

Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski joins the orchestra for his first-ever Nashville performance as the featured soloist on the Rachmaninoff concerto, which is considered one of the most challenging pieces in the classical repertoire, thanks in part to its central role in the 1996 Academy Award-winning film Shine, starring Geoffrey Rush.

Great seats are available starting at $20 (while supplies last, additional fees apply), and the Symphony’s Soundcheck program offers $10 tickets to students in K-12, college and grad school.


About the Program

Celebrated for advancing late Romanticism into the 20th century, as well as a superstar of the golden age of pianists, Rachmaninoff penned the Third Piano Concerto during his first-ever tour of North America in 1909. That tour was not a pleasant experience for Rachmaninoff, thanks to a bout of homesickness that would be a precursor to the separation anxiety he would later encounter when forced to leave his native country following the Russian Revolution.

Rachmaninoff intended the Third to be a vivid showcase of his skills as both a composer and a pianist, and he played the solo part during the world premiere in New York, but the concerto has since earned a reputation as one of the most daunting and technically demanding works ever written. Contributing to this mythology was Rush’s portrayal of child prodigy David Helfgott in Shine, in which the pianist experiences a nervous breakdown while attempting to master the concerto’s solo part. The composer himself said he found the piece to be “more comfortable” to play than his equally renowned Second Piano Concerto, likely due to Rachmaninoff’s large hands, which allowed him to accommodate the required chord spans with more ease and comfort than most pianists.

Tackling Rachmaninoff’s concerto for these performances will be Trpčeski, who has garnered critical acclaim for his virtuosity and deeply expressive approach as a soloist, recitalist and chamber music performer. Trpčeski is also active in advancing Macedonia’s cultural image, working with young musicians to help develop the next generation of Macedonian artists and introducing the world to the folk tunes and melodies of his home country through his “Makedonissimo” initiative.

Sibelius began writing his Fifth Symphony at a time when he was essentially cut off from the rest of Europe during World War I. The composer was also battling a sense of creative doubt and a highly critical attitude toward his own work at that time, which caused him to spend years revising the score.

Though much of the Fifth sounds aesthetically conservative compared to the music of Sibelius’ peers, the work encapsulates the composer’s distinct ability to evoke immense landscapes and a mythic timelessness. Perhaps the symphony’s most notable passage, the “Swan Theme,” is a melody carried by the horn section that was inspired by the composer encountering 16 swans on an April morning in 1915, which Siblieus described in his diary as “one of my greatest experiences!”

Opening the performances will be selections from Gandolfi’s The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. Originally commissioned by Spano in 2004 for the Tanglewood Music Festival, the work was inspired by the expansive Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Scotland. Gandolfi drew heavily on Johann Sebastian Bach’s English and French Suites for harpsichord in composing the piece.

Tickets for Rach Three & Sibelius Five may be purchased:

  • Online at NashvilleSymphony.org/RachThree
  • Via phone at 615.687.6400
  • At the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Box Office, One Symphony Place in downtown Nashville

Program notes, a Spotify playlist and audio of Giancarlo Guerrero discussing the program, can be found at https://www.nashvillesymphony.org/RachThree.

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 29 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 reach 60,000 children and adults each year.


Dave Felipe