World Premiere Recording of works by Jonathan Leshnoff out May 2

Jonathan Leshnoff:

Symphony No. 4 “Heichalos”

Guitar Concerto • Starburst

Nashville Symphony, Giancarlo Guerrero, and guitarist Jason Vieaux present World Premiere Recordings of works by Jonathan Leshnoff

Recording debut of the Violins of Hope – historic instruments once played by Jewish musicians – will be released on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2019

“Music and spirituality both allow me to transcend my physical limitations and journey to places that would otherwise be impossible to go.Jonathan Leshnoff

On May 2, 2019, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Naxos will release world premiere recordings of music by composer Jonathan Leshnoff performed by the Nashville Symphony with conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and guitarist Jason Vieaux. The centerpiece of this singular new collection is Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 4 “Heichalos,” which was written for the Violins of Hope, a collection of restored instruments played by Jewish musicians during the Holocaust.

Jewish spirituality has provided an inexhaustible source of inspiration for Leshnoff, as the works on this recording illustrate. Commissioned by the Nashville Symphony for its Violins of Hope Nashville community initiative, Symphony No. 4 “Heichalos” is based on an ancient mystical text, which Leshnoff tapped as a source of inspiration for exploring the powerful resonances of these historic instruments. Restored by Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshi Weinstein, the Violins of Hope have been the subject of a bestselling book and acclaimed documentary, and today they stand as symbols of resilience and survival in the face of unimaginable suffering. This recording marks the first time the Violins of Hope have been featured on a commercial album release.

“I include reflective questions in the score to exude deep meditation from the musicians,” Leshnoff says of his Symphony No. 4. “I see the Violins of Hope as the physical embodiment of Jewish survival. And I see my symphony as a representation of the spiritual and ethical embodiment of this Jewish survival.”

Jason Vieaux is the soloist on Leshnoff’s Guitar Concerto, a work the composer calls “an exploration of worlds, from its mysterious beginnings to its fiery, dance-inspired finale.” Though he had already composed 12 concertos, Leshnoff does not play the guitar himself, so this commission from the Baltimore Symphony and Marin Alsop presented a unique challenge. “It’s notoriously difficult to write for the instrument unless you play it,” Leshnoff says.  Nonetheless, he immersed himself in studying the literature, crafting a work Nashville Symphony’s Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero considers “one of the greatest additions to the guitar and orchestra repertoire in recent years.”

“I am so pleased to have recorded this exhilarating piece of music – and with such a fantastic orchestra,” says Vieaux. “It is quite beautiful, and in a technical sense even advanced some of my chops along the way! I have never had to practice any piece for performance more perhaps than this one, but it was well worth the effort, because the concerto has made me a better guitarist.” 

Starburst, the brief work that closes this recording, “is a sparkling display of the infinite energy of the cosmos,” says the composer. The piece was premiered in 2010 by the Baltimore Symphony and continues to be Leshnoff’s most performed work, presented by scores of orchestras as an energetic concert-opener.

“This recording showcases different sides of Jonathan Leshnoff’s compositional style,” says Giancarlo Guerrero. “Violins of Hope had incredible social impact here in Nashville and was one of the most worthwhile initiatives the Nashville Symphony has ever undertaken. It provided us the perfect opportunity to commission Jonathan Leshnoff to write something for these historic instruments, and his Symphony No. 4 gives us the chance to hear so much more of his musical language. He was not afraid to explore new sounds and ideas, and the results are tremendously powerful. Along with his Guitar Concerto and Starburst, this breathtaking new work reveals his profound depth as an artist, and this collection reminds us of the ways that music has the power to keep history alive, to give voice to the voiceless, to heal, to transcend and to express what cannot be conveyed through language.”


One of Tennessee’s largest and longest-running nonprofit performing arts organizations, the Nashville Symphony has been an integral part of the Music City sound since 1946. Led by music director Giancarlo Guerrero and president and CEO Alan D. Valentine, the 83-member ensemble performs more than 150 concerts annually, with a focus on contemporary American orchestral music through collaborations with composers including Jennifer Higdon, Terry Riley, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Michael Daugherty, Christopher Rouse, John Harbison and Jonathan Leshnoff. The orchestra is equally renowned for its commissioning and recording projects with Nashville-based artists including bassist Edgar Meyer, banjoist Béla Fleck, singer-songwriter Ben Folds and electric bassist Victor Wooten. The Nashville Symphony is one of the most active recording orchestras in the US, with 30 releases. Together, these recordings have earned a total of 24 GRAMMY® Award nominations and 13 GRAMMY® Awards, including two for Best Orchestral Performance. Schermerhorn Symphony Center is home to the Nashville Symphony and widely regarded as one of the finest concert halls in the US.


Six-time GRAMMY® Award-winning conductor Giancarlo Guerrero is music director of the Nashville Symphony and the Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland, as well as principal guest conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon, Portugal. He has championed contemporary American music through commissions and recordings, presenting nine world premieres with the Nashville Symphony by composers including Michael Daugherty and Terry Riley. As part of this commitment, he helped guide the creation of Nashville Symphony’s Composer Lab & Workshop initiative. In North America, Guerrero has appeared with the orchestras of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Toronto, and the National Symphony Orchestra. He has developed a strong international profile working with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, the Brussels Philharmonic, the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. An advocate for music education, he works regularly with the Curtis Institute of Music, the Colburn School in Los Angeles and the National Youth Orchestra (NYO2) in New York.


Distinguished by The New York Times as “a leader of contemporary American lyricism,” composer Jonathan Leshnoff is renowned for his music’s striking harmonies, structural complexity and powerful themes. Leshnoff ’s works have been performed by more than 60 orchestras worldwide, including commissions from Carnegie Hall; the Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, and Nashville Symphony orchestras; the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; and the IRIS and Philadelphia orchestras. This is the fifth album devoted to Leshnoff’s music on the Naxos American Classics imprint. Celebrated by Fanfare magazine as “the real thing,” Leshnoff’s music has been lauded by Strings Magazine as “distinct from anything else that’s out there” and by The Baltimore Sun as “remarkably assured, cohesively constructed and radiantly lyrical.” Leshnoff’s catalog is vast, including several symphonies and oratorios in addition to numerous concerti, solo works, and chamber works.  He is a professor of music at Towson University, Maryland. “My essential aesthetic has always been that I have to communicate and take people on a journey,” Leshnoff says. “Where listeners decide to go, what they do with the music they hear, is of course going to be based on their own lives and what is inside them.”


Jason Vieaux has an extensive discography that includes the 2015 Best Classical Instrumental Solo GRAMMY® Award winner, Play. Performance highlights include the Caramoor Festival as artist-in-residence, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, New York’s 92nd Street Y, and the Ravinia Festival. Frequent collaborators include the Escher String Quartet, harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, and accordionist/bandoneonist Julien Labro. He has appeared as a soloist with over 100 orchestras and, in addition to this new work by Jonathan Leshnoff, has fostered premieres by Avner Dorman, Jeff Beal, Dan Visconti, David Ludwig, Vivian Fung, and José Luis Merlin. Vieaux has received a Naumburg Foundation top prize, a Cleveland Institute of Music Distinguished Alumni Award, First Prize at the Guitar Foundation of America International Guitar Competition, and a Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant. Vieaux was the first classical musician featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk series. He plays a 2013 Gernot Wagner guitar with Augustine strings.

Giancarlo Guerrero