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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.

Dance Review: Magic abounds in Nashville Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’

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“You should know that I plan to scream my head off as soon as this show is over,” said the nice lady who sat next to me on Saturday afternoon at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for the opening of Nashville Ballet’s annual production of the The Nutcracker. This lady, it turned out, was the […]

Music Review: Nashville Symphony and Chorus pay tribute to Stephen Paulus

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a more touching and tasteful beginning of a program than the one the Nashville Symphony Orchestra is presenting this weekend at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Music director Giancarlo Guerrero and the NSO are devoting their performances to American composer Stephen Paulus, who died last month, just days after Guerrero and […]

Music Review: ALIAS opens its season with some delightful surprises and a few tough nuts

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An ALIAS Chamber Ensemble program is a lot like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates: Once inside the concert hall, you never know what you’re going to get. As I perused ALIAS’ program on Wednesday night at the Blair School of Music’s Turner Recital Hall, I felt as if I were sitting on a bus […]

Cotton Club comes to life this weekend at the Schermerhorn

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New York City’s Cotton Club was the kind of place F. Scott Fitzgerald was thinking about when he wrote The Great Gatsby. Founded in Harlem during the height of Prohibition, it’s where Tom Buchanan would have taken Nick Carraway for an illicit night on the town, where Meyer Wolfshiem would have discussed business with the […]

East meets West in ALIAS’ season-opening concert

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Connoisseurs of foreign cinema are probably familiar with the name Toru Takemitsu, the great post-war Japanese composer who wrote scores for famed filmmakers Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Teshigahara. What’s less well known is that Takemitsu was also the first important classical composer to emerge from Asia after World War II. One of his most ethereal […]

Music Review: Vijay Iyer, vamping in Technicolor in the Land of Oz

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It’s hard to believe Oz Arts Nashville is not yet a year old. In short order, this adventurous, forwarding-looking venue for the contemporary arts has fundamentally changed the creative landscape of Music City. Now, anything seems possible. On Saturday night, the renowned composer and jazz pianist Vijay Iyer was at Oz, exploring the possibilities of […]

Music Review: Conductor Hans Graf goes in long-winded pursuit of a musical mystery

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Music director Giancarlo Guerrero is away this weekend, but he’s left the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in the hands of two distinguished artists. Hans Graf, a familiar face on the guest conducting circuit, is in town to lead the NSO in such perennial favorites as Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 and […]

Jazz pianist and MacArthur ‘genius’ grant recipient Vijay Iyer debuts at Oz Arts Nashville this weekend

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One of the world’s most daring and innovative musicians will be following the yellow brick road to Oz Arts Nashville this weekend. Vijay Iyer, a noted composer, jazz pianist and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, will make his Oz debut on Saturday night in two innovative works: Mutations I-X, an extended suite for string quartet, piano […]

Vortex’s concert will feature bells, whistles and one crazy clown

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Perhaps music really did begin with some caveman beating two sticks together. That would explain the primal energy that Vortex will release this weekend, when it presents one of its typically kinetic concerts at the Blair School of Music’s Turner Hall. As usual, Vortex’s concert will be a multimedia event, with artistic director Michael Holland […]

Music Review: Violinist Itzhak Perlman works his magic on a classically savvy Nashville crowd

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Few classical musicians are capable of filling an auditorium for a solo instrumental recital anymore. One who still can is the renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, who performed for a large and surprisingly savvy classical music crowd on Sunday night at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Perlman was giving his first solo recital in Nashville in nearly […]

Violinist Cornelia Heard celebrates Blair’s 50th-anniversary with a little help from her famous family and friends

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When Blair School of Music violinist Cornelia Heard announces she’s giving a concert with a few of her family and friends, classical music fans pay attention. Her closest associates, after all, include some of the classical music world’s most distinguished performers. This Saturday evening, Heard will present one of her family-and-friends concerts at Blair’s Turner Recital […]

Music Review: Gateway Chamber Orchestra’s wind players serenade Nashville

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The chamber orchestra is like the Swiss army knife of classical ensembles. It’s a remarkably versatile musical tool, one capable of performing virtually any style of music using almost any combination of instruments. Not surprisingly, some of the repertoire’s greatest works are written for chamber orchestra. On Monday night, Gateway Chamber Orchestra was at Downtown […]

Music Review: Violinist Simone Porter and the NSO play Paganini with a vengeance

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Midway through violinist Simone Porter’s rendition of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra on Friday night, a jazz concert threatened to break out. No, Porter didn’t give a spontaneous performance of improvised music. Rather, her fiery, impassioned account of Paganini’s fiendishly difficult score prompted one concertgoer to forget his classical decorum, […]

Lost and Found: Nashville Symphony performs the music of American composer Tobias Picker this weekend

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At the end of every one of his piano recitals, the late-great composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff always had to play the same encore, his Prelude in C-sharp minor. Never mind that Rachmaninoff composed that little prelude when he was just 19, and never mind that over the course of his long career, he composed many superior […]

Composer Stephen Paulus was known for his many operas, choral and orchestra works

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The classical music world has lost one of its most lyrically inspired composers. Stephen Paulus, best known for his 1982 opera The Postman Always Rings Twice, died Sunday, Oct. 19 at an assisted living facility in Minnesota following complications from a stroke. He was 65. A remarkably prolific composer, Paulus wrote more than 450 works, […]

Dance Review: Nashville Ballet takes flight in ‘Swan Lake’

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Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake may well be the quintessential classical ballet. This sumptuous spectacle seemingly has everything a balletic bird watcher could want: beautiful ballerinas in snow white tutus; a fairy tale prince and heartless villain; and, of course, the famed Russian composer’s hyperemotional score. But what most recommends Nashville Ballet’s current production is […]

Dance Review: Bandaloop defies gravity at Oz Arts Nashville

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It stands to reason that a vertical dance company would know a lot about the heavens. So the dancers of Bandaloop no doubt had a keen sense that it was safe to start their Oz Arts Nashville performance outdoors on Friday night, despite the clear threat of rain. These terrific Oakland, Calif.-based dancers have been […]

Music Review: At Ingram Hall, Blair String Quartet debuts a new first violinist

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The Blair String Quartet changes personnel about as frequently as the Vatican does, so there was considerable interest in the ensemble’s concert Saturday night at Ingram Hall. Stephen Miahky was making his official debut as the group’s new first violinist. Nashville’s die-hard classical fans were in attendance, and they were eager to hear how this […]

Music Review: NSO and pianist Olga Kern offer up some ravishing Rachmaninoff

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Why on earth would Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra devote their entire concert this weekend at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center to the music of that arch-Romantic Sergei Rachmaninoff? Because of that drop-dead gorgeous slow movement in the composer’s Second Symphony, that’s why. And while they were at it on Friday night, Guerrero and […]

Violinist Stephen Miahky makes his debut with the Blair String Quartet

Photograph (C) Beowulf Sheehan

Classical musicians seldom get to feel like rock stars. But violinist Stephen Miahky got that chance while still a doctoral student at Rutgers University. The Dalai Lama was touring the U.S., and Miahky and another doctoral student were invited to perform for him. It became Miahky’s U2 moment, since he performed in a football stadium. “I […]