Review: Nashville Symphony premieres Michael Daugherty's Once Upon a Castle

Giancarlo Guerrero
Nashville Scene

Over the years, the composer Michael Daugherty has found a seemingly bottomless reservoir of inspiration in American pop culture. His lengthy catalog of works includes symphonic tributes to Superman, Elvis and UFOs. On Friday night at the Schermerhorn, conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony unveiled the composer’s newly revised “Citizen Kane” Concertante.

Arranged as a “symphony concertante,” a cross between a symphony and a concerto, the work is essentially a neo-romantic pipe organ symphony. The organ functions as a kind of protagonist, a sonic Citizen Kane, who engages from time to time in animated musical conversations with solo violin, trumpet and the entire orchestra. 

One couldn’t have hoped for a better performance. The soloist, Paul Jacobs, chair of the organ department at the Juilliard School, played with precision and high drama. Guerrero and the NSO provided tight, colorful accompaniment. The performance won an extended ovation, and the composer, who was in the audience, basked in the warm glow of applause. After several curtain calls, Jacobs was finally persuaded to play an encore, responding with a technically brilliant rendition of J.S. Bach’s Fugue in A minor.

Guerrero likes to construct programs that are filled subtle relationships and happy coincidences. Since the program opened with an organ symphony, Guerrero concluded the concert with the music of Austrian composer Anton Bruckner, an organist who wrote mystical symphonies of heavenly length and cathedral grandeur.

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