Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Knoxville's Classical Heritage

Opening night of the 2017-18 Masterworks series is at hand! As the season unfolds, the repertoire will resemble a travelogue, with the first concert's offerings appropriately enough delving into things Knoxvillean.  Acclaimed soprano Joelle Harvey will grace our stage for Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a work which has put our town on the map in the most positive way possible.  Preluding that performance, Knoxville's Poet Laureate R. B. Morris will read the text of the work, which is pulled from James Agee's Pulitzer-winning novel from 1959, A Death in the Family.

The Agee connection will be evident again in Aaron Copland's Suite from his opera The Tender Land, which is inspired by Copland's brush with that author's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.  No one does classical Americana better than Copland, and this luminous work contrasts beautifully with the Rachmaninov.  A commissioned work by Michael Schachter entitled Overture to Knoxville will open the concert.  Schachter's compositional style is somewhere between Copland's and Rachmaninov's; I will be curious to hear audience members' opinions as to how the work musically relates to our city.  A crew of brass instruments placed in various places in the the Theatre gives the piece a "surround-sound" ambiance that will take you away.

The concert will close with Sergei Rachmaninov's final composition Symphonic Dances, a suite of three darkly vivacious movements brimming with Rachmaninov's orchestrating genius.  The Knoxville connection here is that the composer-pianist's last public recital took place at UT's Alumni Gym, just six weeks before his death.  The work means a lot to me because our son Thomas performed the two-piano version of the work at the Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts in 2006.  Luckily, Thomas will be in attendance at the Friday night concert.  Yay!

This will all be Thursday and Friday night, at the Tennessee Theatre, 7:30 pm, tickets and info here. Please be aware of and bear with the various road closures in the immediate vicinity of the Tennessee; right now, it looks as though Clinch Ave. between State and Gay is closed to traffic, but the sidewalks are open.

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