Nashville Symphony Welcomes Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer John Harbison for Live-in-Concert Recording of His Requiem

May 08, 2017

Nashville Symphony Chorus to be featured on rarely performed piece composed in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks

Celebrated American composer John Harbison visits Music City this week for the Nashville Symphony & Chorus’ May 12-13 performances of his Requiem – a moving response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

To be recorded for future worldwide release on Naxos, this rarely performed piece will prominently feature the Nashville Symphony Chorus, along with four world-class vocal soloists: soprano Jessica Rivera, mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, tenor Nicholas Phan and baritone Kelly Markgraf.

Tucker Biddlecombe, who will officially become director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus in August, has spent the past year preparing the all-volunteer ensemble for the performance and recording, which is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“This is an important work, reflective of a critical time in our history, and we are honored to be documenting it for posterity,” said Biddlecombe. “It has all the elements of the great pieces of music we all love, from Brahms-like fugues coupled with complicated and exciting harmonies, to the Dies Irae movement that hearkens to the great music of Verdi and Mozart describing the final judgement day.”

A Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, Harbison has served on the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1969. He will be in Nashville this week to work with the orchestra and chorus during rehearsals and to attend both performances.

Harbison first began writing what would become the Requiem in 1985, but it was the events of 9/11 and a subsequent commission from the Boston Symphony that provided the impetus to complete the project 16 years later. During that time, the composer rose to the forefront of American orchestral music with an impressive catalogue of symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music and art songs, as well as an array of sacred choral music.

The Requiem, which premiered in 2003 and has seldom been performed since, showcases the very best of the composer’s style and talents. Known for integrating influences from literature into his work, Harbison draws on the Latin sacred music tradition with this setting of the Requiem Mass. His experience writing choral repertoire and his interest in exploring themes of loss and transcendence are both evident in the Requiem, a recognized masterpiece full of dramatic musical effects.

Tickets for the concert, which also includes Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, start at only $20 when using the promotional code SPRING. Tickets are available at, via phone at 615.687.6400 and at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Box Office: 1 Symphony Place, Nashville, TN 37201.

The Nashville Symphony’s performances and recording of John Harbison’s Requiem are part of the Aegis Sciences Classical Series. More information and full program notes can be found online here.

For interview opportunities with John Harbison, Tucker Biddlecombe and/or Nashville Symphony music director Giancarlo Guerrero, contact Dave Felipe at 615.687.6565 or


With support from:

Aegis Sciences Foundation | National Endowment for the Arts | Metro Nashville Arts Commission | Tennessee Arts Commission