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Giancarlo Guerrero leads the Nashville Symphony and Chorus in the World Premiere Recording of Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer John Harbison’s Requiem

September 25, 2018 | By Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Giancarlo Guerrero leads the Nashville Symphony and Chorus in the World Premiere Recording of Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer John Harbison’s Requiem

Written in response to 9/11, this rarely performed work explores grief and the passage of time

Soloists Jessica Rivera, Michaela Martens, Nicholas Phan and Kelly Markgraf are also featured on this recording, to be released on Naxos on October 12th

“Harbison’s Requiem is one more jewel in this composer’s already ornate crown…a seriously crafted, deeply felt, beautifully scored work that will surely take its place among the other great works of its kind in the repertoire.” John Pitcher, American Record Guide

“The Requiem is the work of an experienced master…Harbison has enlarged our experience, created something new that feels permanent because it needs to exist. By assimilating the past, and by turning inward, he has found new ways to say things that all of us need to hear.”  Richard Dyer, Boston Globe

Nashville, TN/New York, NY – September 25, 2018 – On October 12, 2018, Naxos will release the world premiere recording of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Harbison’s Requiem, performed by the Nashville Symphony and Chorus with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and soprano Jessica Rivera, mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens, tenor Nicholas Phan and baritone Kelly Markgraf.

This rarely performed work is Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero’s first recording with the Nashville Symphony Chorus, following a string of GRAMMY® Award-winning projects with the orchestra over the past decade. Inspired in part by the events of 9/11, Harbison’s Requiem draws on the tradition of Latin sacred music, opening in the key of D minor — the same key of Mozart’s own Requiem – and skillfully weaving the vocal soloists with the full chorus throughout for dramatic effect.

Featuring key contributions from Nashville Symphony Chorus director Tucker Biddlecombe, who spent a year preparing the ensemble for the recording, Harbison’s Requiem continues the orchestra’s longstanding commitment to championing, preserving and promoting work that reflects the breadth and depth of the contemporary American experience. “I learned about Harbison’s Requiem from a friend who had been moved by the work at its 2003 Boston premiere and encouraged me to learn the piece,” Guerrero says. “Once I looked through the score, I immediately fell in love with this powerful work. I knew it was time to put it in its rightful place in the repertoire by recording it.”

John Harbison first began writing the Requiem in 1985, on the same page as a work that would eventually become his opera The Great Gatsby, written for the Metropolitan Opera. 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. “The events of that fall made my purposes clearer,” Harbison writes. “I wanted my piece to have a sense of the inexorability of the passage of time, for good and ill, of the commonality of love and loss. I wanted to open up an aural space where this could be acknowledged.”

Harbison found it important to consider “what my piece could add to the many distinguished pieces of its type...I wanted a sense of ancient inheritance to inhabit my setting: a ritual steeped in the inevitability of death – gradually moving toward consolation and acceptance.” The resulting Requiem demonstrates the very best of the composer’s style and talents: his experience writing choral repertoire and his interest in exploring themes of loss and transcendence.

Though the Requiem’s 2003 premiere was met with unanimous praise from critics and “standing-ovation enthusiasm” according to Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe, the work was never mounted again until Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony reintroduced the work to audiences at the 2017 performances, captured live for this release.

John Pitcher of the Nashville Scene and American Record Guide praised that performance in Nashville as “magnificent…Soprano Jessica Rivera’s voice soared effortlessly above the orchestra, and mezzo Michaela Martens seemingly enveloped every syllable in a downy cushion. Tenor Nicholas Phan and baritone Kelly Markgraf both sang with unfailing sensitivity to the meaning of the texts. The Nashville Symphony Chorus, expertly prepared by Tucker Biddlecombe, sang with a beautifully blended sound.  Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony supplied colorful, nuanced accompaniment. The composer was in the hall and enjoyed the enthusiastic applause at the end of the performance.”


The GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony has earned an international reputation for its innovative programming and its commitment to performing, recording and commissioning works by America’s leading composers. The Nashville Symphony has released 30 recordings on Naxos, which have received 24 GRAMMY® nominations and 13 GRAMMY® Awards, making it one of the most active recording orchestras in the country. The orchestra has also released recordings on Decca, Deutsche Grammophon and New West Records, among other labels. With more than 140 performances annually, the orchestra offers a broad range of classical, pops and jazz, and children’s concerts, while its extensive education and community engagement programs reach up to 60,000 children and adults each year. View a complete discography at


Giancarlo Guerrero is a six-time GRAMMY® Award-winning conductor now in his tenth season as Music Director of the Nashville Symphony. Guerrero is also Music Director of the Wroclaw Philharmonic at the National Forum of Music in Poland and Principal Guest Conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, Portugal. A passionate proponent of new music, he has championed the works of America’s most respected composers through commissions, recordings and world premieres. Guerrero’s advocacy has helped make Nashville a destination for contemporary orchestral music. He has presented nine world premieres with the Nashville Symphony, including the 2016 performance and GRAMMY®-winning recording of Jennifer Higdon’s All Things Majestic. Guerrero also developed the Nashville Symphony’s Composer Lab & Workshop initiative, together with composer Aaron Jay Kernis, to foster and promote new American orchestral music. A natural and instinctive musician, he is a charismatic presence on the podium and has appeared with many prominent North American orchestras, including those of Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Montreal, Philadelphia, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. He has also developed a strong guest-conducting profile in Europe and has worked with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Brussels Philharmonic, Deutsches Radio Philharmonie, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Netherlands Philharmonic, Residentie Orkest and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Queensland Symphony and Sydney Symphony in Australia. Guerrero is particularly engaged with conducting training orchestras and works with the Curtis School of Music, Colburn School in Los Angeles, National Youth Orchestra (NYO2) in New York – created and operated by the Weill Institute of Music at Carnegie Hall – and Yale Philharmonia, as well as with the Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando program, which provides music education to promising young students from underrepresented ethnic communities. More at


Composer John Harbison is among America's most distinguished artistic figures. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize, Harbison has composed music for most of America’s premier musical institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His catalog includes three operas, six symphonies, twelve concerti, a ballet, five string quartets, numerous song cycles and chamber works, and a large body of sacred music that includes cantatas, motets and the orchestral-choral works Four PsalmsRequiem and Abraham.  His music is widely recorded on leading labels.

Harbison’s opera The Great Gatsby received its European premiere at Semperoper Dresden, with a revival there planned for May 2017.  Gatsby has previously been heard in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Aspen, Boston and Tanglewood.  Recent premieres include Seven Poems of Lorine Niedecker, String TrioFor Violin Alone and Supper at Emmaus.  Harbison’s current composition projects include a work for cello and strings, a clarinet trio, Longfellow settings for viols and countertenor, his sixth string quartet, and a monodrama. He has been composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Academy in Rome and numerous festivals. He received degrees from Harvard and Princeton before joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently Institute Professor. For many summers since 1984 he has taught composition at Tanglewood, serving as head of the composition program there from 2005-2015, often also directing its Festival of Contemporary Music. With Rose Mary Harbison, the inspiration for many of his violin works, he has been co-Artistic Director of the annual Token Creek Chamber Music Festival since its founding in 1989.  He continues as principal guest conductor at Emmanuel Music (where for three years he served as Acting Artistic Director). Active as a jazz pianist, Harbison founded MIT’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble in 2010, for which he served as coach and arranger, and he is pianist with the faculty jazz group Strength in Numbers (SIN).  In these roles he is adding to his large catalogue of pop songs and jazz arrangements.

Harbison was President of the Copland Fund for fifteen years and a trustee of the American Academy in Rome.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a Trustee of the Bogliasco Foundation. His music is published exclusively by Associated Music Publishers.





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