FranklinIs Connected

Berlioz’s Iconic Symphonie Fantastique Headlines Nashville Symphony Concerts on November 7-9

Berlioz’s Iconic Symphonie Fantastique Headlines Nashville Symphony Concerts on November 7-9

Program also features world-renowned pianist, composer and writer Stephen Hough in Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto

Nashville, Tenn. (October 31, 2019) — World-class artists and breathtaking repertoire come together for the Nashville Symphony’s Classical Series performances on November 7-9 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, as guest conductor Thierry Fisher leads the orchestra in Hector Berlioz’s legendary Symphonie Fantastique. British pianist Stephen Hough, one of contemporary music’s most brilliant artists and thinkers, returns to perform as the soloist in Mendelsssohn’s First Piano Concerto.

Described by Leonard Bernstein as the first musical expedition into psychedelia, Symphonie Fantastique portrays a feverish, hallucinatory journey from the ecstatic highs of romantic obsession to the deepest lows of rejection and betrayal.

Enhancing the performance of this groundbreaking masterpiece will be a pair of pure copper and block tin bells on loan from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, brought to Music City specifically for these concerts. The inclusion of the bells – which were cast by the Petit and Fristen Bell Foundry in Holland and weigh a combined 500 pounds – is a rare treat, as such bells are so scarce that the parts Berlioz wrote for them are usually assigned to the piano instead.

The concerts open with American composer Andrew Norman’s Unstuck, a kaleidoscopic and energetic piece inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

Great seats are available starting at $20 (while supplies last, additional fees apply), and the Symphony’s Soundcheck program offers $10 tickets to students in K-12, college and grad school. 

About the Program and Artists

Though music scholars and critics have historically been split on Hector Berlioz’s music and his impact on the repertoire, the composer has more than his fair share of fervent fans – Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood among them – and Symphonie Fantastique ranks as one of the Frenchman’s most popular and important pieces.

Composed in 1830, this musical “fever dream” serves as a self-portrait of Berlioz himself and his obsession with Irish actress Harriet Smithson, whom the composer first encountered in 1827 (and would later marry for a brief period of time).

The hallucinatory nature of the work can be attributed, in part, to the fact that Berlioz likely wrote at least some of it while using opium, and the result is a score ripe with the visions and transformations that occur in dreams and fantasies. Symphonie Fantastique has also made its way into modern pop culture – the dark and nightmarish fifth movement (“Witches Sabbath”) was featured in Sleeping with the Enemy starring Julia Roberts, and Stanley Kubrick used the same movement’s solemn Dies Irae chant as the theme song of his legendary film The Shining.

Considered one of the world’s most uniquely insightful concert pianists, Stephen Hough is also a prolific composer and recording artist, writer and painter, and he has been described by The Economist as one of “Twenty Living Polymaths.” A regular performer with orchestras around the globe, Hough has more than 40 published compositions for orchestra, choir, chamber ensemble and solo piano, and he has recorded more than five dozen albums for Hyperion Records. In December 2013, he was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

As a writer, Hough has contributed articles for numerous newspapers and magazines, and his blog on The Telegraph became one of the most popular and influential forums for cultural discussion from 2009 to 2016. An anthology of essays by Hough on his experiences as a musician, his travels and his thoughts on major issues of the day, Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More, will be published in the U.S. this February.

Thierry Fischer has served as music director of the Utah Symphony since 2009, and his tenure has featured numerous highlights, including a 2016 concert at Carnegie Hall, the release of an acclaimed performance of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Reference Records, and conducing the orchestra in five of Utah’s national parks. These concerts will serve as a reunion of sorts for Fisher and Hough, after the pair performed together in Utah last season.

Tickets for Symphonie Fantastique may be purchased:

Full program notes, artist bios, a Spotify playlist and audio of Giancarlo Guerrero discussing the program can be found at


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 more than 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 reached 45,000 children and adults during the 2018/19 season.