Spanish pianist Javier Perianes makes his Nashville debut this weekend, playing a somewhat unusual concerto with the Nashville Symphony. Camille Saint-Saens’s Second is now the most performed of the composer’s piano concertos, but early audiences weren’t sure what to make of it.
It starts off like a Bach solo keyboard piece, with the orchestra waiting to find its way into the dark, moody, and intricate music. From there, the music changes character numerous times rather than trying to sustain a cohesive idea through to the end. What’s more, there’s no slow movement at all. Instead of a profound or metaphysical middle movement, this concerto pushes the pianist through a quick-moving scherzo that’s a challenge to play.
Perianes, who has performed Saint-Saens’s Egyptian Concerto extensively in Europe, says he used to wonder why the great Artur Rubenstein kept returning to the second. But now, he says, he thinks he understands. He says what holds the piece together as a whole is that once it breaks through the initial section, the music cycles through various ways of expressing happiness until, at the end, its joyful tone rivals the rambunctious overtures of Offenbach.
“From the very beginning you can feel a connection between the audience and the concerto,” Perianes says. “It’s such a lovely piece.”
The pianist says he already feels a certain connection to Music City, although he’s never visited here before. Perianes has been using American television to help hone his English skills, including the show Nashville. He says he’s particularly enjoyed getting a glimpse of what the city looks like so that it might feel “a little more home” when he’s here.
The Nashville Symphony's program also includes Respighi's Pines of Rome, Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, and Samuel Barber's Symphony in One Movement. The Toronto Symphony's Peter Oundjian will serve as guest conductor.