Pianist Roger Wiesmeyer goes solo at Mozart birthday bash

mozart4Nashville native Roger Wiesmeyer was just 4 years old when his mother first tried to get him piano lessons. Ellenita Zimmerman, one of Music City’s esteemed pedagogues, deemed the pint-sized pianist to be too young for formal instruction. So she turned him down.

Wiesmeyer, however, would not be denied. “I played [Zimmermann] my rendition of ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ using chords I’d picked out myself,” Wiesmeyer said in interview with ArtsNash last summer. “After that she told my mom that of course she’d teach me.”

rogerThis Saturday, some 44 years after his first formal encounter with the piano, Wiesmeyer will take the plunge and solo for the first time in a piano concerto. The performance at Edgehill United Methodist Church will be part of Wiesmeyer’s popular annual Mozart Birthday concert.

Wiesmeyer and his small pickup orchestra will present Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K. 453, a 1784 work that had been a favorite performance vehicle for pianists from Mozart to Leonard Bernstein. Joseph Lee, music director of the Murfreesboro Philharmonic, will conduct.

Afterward, Wiesmeyer will join the noted pianist Francoise Pierredon in a performance of Mozart’ four-hand Sonata in F major, K. 497.

Wiesmeyer, who is best known in Music City as the long-time principal English horn player of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, has been staging his annual Mozart celebration for the past dozen years. The concert is also a charity event. This year’s performance will benefit Edgehill Church and the Nashville Philharmonic.

Although he’s usually heard around town playing one of his reed instruments, Wiesmeyer has been performing the piano more of late. His renewed love affair with the keyboard no doubt stems from his recent purchase of a historic Steinway baby grand Model O.

Wiesmeyer presented a recital on this piano last September, which was streamed live from his living room on www.stageit.com. This Saturday’s Mozart recital will also be streamed live on the site. Music fans who attend the live event will be served birthday cake.

If you go

Mozart Birthday Benefit Concert begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, January 26 at Edgehill United Methodist Church, 1502 Edgehill Ave. Roger Wiesmeyer will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17. Wiesmeyer and pianist Francoise Pierredon will also play Mozart’ four-hand Sonata in F major, K. 497.

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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.