Nashville Symphony Opens New Concert Season with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony

Opening weekend also features visits from composer Adolphus Hailstork and legendary pianist Garrick Ohlsson

Nashville, Tenn. (Sept. 5, 2019) — The Nashville Symphony kicks off its 2019/20 Classical Series on September 12-14, as Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero and the orchestra return to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center stage to perform Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.

The concerts open with Adolphus Hailstork’s An American Port of Call, a musical tribute to the composer’s city of residence, Norfolk, Virginia. Active as an educator, scholar and composer in a variety of genres, Hailstork will make a special visit to Music City for the performances and is available for interviews upon request. Continuing to build on his impressive 50-year career, soloist Garrick Ohlsson joins the orchestra for Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto – regarded as one of the most challenging pieces in the genre. 

“The Nashville Symphony’s opening weekend provides a great snapshot of what our orchestra is all about,” notes Guerrero. “Adolphus Hailstork is one of the most important voices working today in American music, and Garrick Ohlsson is precisely the kind of outstanding performer who can bring Barber’s incredibly demanding Piano Concerto to life. I cannot think of a better way to begin our new season than by blending the works of two great American composers with a true staple of the classical repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth.”

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

Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 5 in E-minor
Composed: May-August 1888
Premiered: November 17, 1888

  • Tchaikovsky quickly composed the Fifth Symphony amid ongoing self-doubt about his abilities as a composer. This landmark piece is a vivid study in contrasts, with moments of poignancy and brooding, before building to a triumphant finish. Despite his own struggles, even the composer seemed pleased with the final result: “My symphony is ready,” he wrote to a friend, “and I think that I have not miscalculated, that it has turned out well.” 
  • The concept of “Fate,” which shows up in Tchaikovsky’s earlier symphonies, appears again in the Fifth: His initial notes on the piece referred to one musical idea as representing “total submission before fate.” After hearing the piece, at least one critic at the time picked up on this idea, writing in response, “If Beethoven’s Fifth is Fate knocking at the door, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth is Fate trying to get out.”

Barber – Piano Concerto, Op. 38
Composed: 1959-1962
Premiered: September 24, 1962

  • Perhaps best known for his stirring Adagio for Strings, Barber penned the Piano Concerto during the height of his career. In 1963, the concerto earned the composer his second Pulitzer Prize in Music. To date, only three other composers have won more than one Pulitzer for music.
  • Barber wrote the Piano Concerto with American piano virtuoso John Browning in mind, crafting the solo part in the aesthetic of the Old Russian School of piano that shaped Browning’s development. Browning would become a champion of the work, performing the world premiere in New York and making a pair of acclaimed recordings of the concerto as well.

Hailstork – An American Port of Call
Composed: 1984
Premiered: 1985

  • Hailstork’s musical language, which is warmly lyrical, tonal, pulsing with energy, and often narrative-driven, reflects what he has described as “a double cultural experience, that of my standard European-oriented education and that of my ethnic heritage.”
  • Possibly Hailstork’s best-known orchestral score, An American Port of Call resulted from a commission in the mid-1980s from the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and centers around the port of Norfolk, where the composer resides. Hailstork’s vibrant orchestration and well-judged contrasts convey, in his own words, “the strident (and occasionally tender and even mysterious) energy of a busy American port city.”

Tickets for Tchaikovsky’s Fifth may be purchased:

Full program notes and artist bios, a Spotify playlist and audio of Giancarlo Guerrero discussing the program, can be found at