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Naxos to Release Tobias Picker's 'Opera Without Words' and 'The Encantadas' Performed By The Nashville Symphony and Giancarlo Guerrero

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It will be released on August 28, 2020.

Naxos to Release Tobias Picker's 'Opera Without Words' and 'The Encantadas' Performed By The Nashville Symphony and Giancarlo Guerrero

On August 28, 2020, Naxos will release a recording featuring one of Tobias Picker's most performed symphonic works, The Encantadas, with narration by the composer, paired with Mr. Picker's newest symphonic work, Opera Without Words, in its world-premiere recording-both performed by the Nashville Symphony conducted by Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero.

Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as "our finest composer for the lyric stage," Tobias Picker has garnered critical acclaim for his operas and rich catalog of works in every genre that have been commissioned and performed by the world's leading musicians, orchestras, and opera houses. Since his mid-forties, opera has imbued much of his work, and both works on this album are rooted in the genre.

The Encantadas, was composed in 1983 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Albany Academy, which Herman Melville attended as a boy. Since its premiere it has been translated and performed in five languages. The Encantadas draws on Melville's 1854 novella of the same name depicting the Galápagos Islands. In this six-movement work, Mr. Picker employed the now rare "melodrama" genre, in which text is narrated dramatically alongside the score (in this case, by Mr. Picker, who recited the entire work from memory). In a conversation between Mr. Picker and Giancarlo Guerrero, the composer recounts narrating the piece when he wrote it 37 years ago: "I performed The Encantadas as narrator many times as a very young man, but I always looked forward to performing it as an old man some day and knew that it would be more natural, because it's actually the story of an old man looking back on his journey."

Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero's connection to The Encantadas dates back to 2003, when the Minnesota Orchestra-where Mr. Guerrero was serving as Associate Conductor at the time-programmed the piece. "The Encantadas is a piece that touches on climate change," explains Mr. Guerrero. "The 19th-century explorers recognized the fragility of our ecosystem, and Melville's words presciently capture the enchanting beauty of the Galápagos in a work that could not be more timely."

"Ever since I was first introduced to Mr. Picker through The Encantadas," Mr. Guerrero went on to say, "I knew I wanted to commission something from him one day." That commission would emerge as Opera Without Words, in which Mr. Picker developed a radically new form: a purely instrumental work that conveys a secret opera. In the piece, co-commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and the Nashville Symphony, and performed and recorded by the latter in 2017, Mr. Picker called upon the ideas of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words, Lorin Maazel's Wagner adaptation The 'Ring' Without Words, and former teacher Milton Babbitt's Phonemena, in which the soprano has no words, just phonemes. Mr. Picker says he approached his first purely orchestral work in 22 years as he would an opera. He hired librettist Irene Dische to write a story based on mutual friends and "set her words not to voices, but to musical instruments, unfettered by considerations of vocal range and technique."

"There is a gap between the symphony orchestra culture and the opera culture," Mr. Picker explains. "I've inhabited these two worlds for a long time and have seen how they tend to be unaware of each other. So, by returning to one of those worlds I'd been away from for so long, I wanted to bridge that gap for myself and, hopefully, for others."

This album follows the release of the 2020 GRAMMY Award-winning Best Opera Recording of Tobias Picker's opera Fantastic Mr. Fox conducted by Gil Rose on BMOP/sound. It is also the last of three recordings featuring contemporary American music performed by the GRAMMY Award-winning Nashville Symphony led by conductor Giancarlo Guerrero to be released on Naxos this summer, following collections dedicated to Aaron Jay Kernis in June and the late Christopher Rouse in July. The release of the three albums coincides with the 20th anniversary of the recording partnership between the Nashville Symphony and Naxos.

"I cherish my friendships with each composer whose music we have recorded," says Mr. Guerrero. "I am honored to champion all of them. The greatest reward for us is that they have become a part of the Nashville Symphony family through the efforts of our community to catalog the music of our time."

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