Nathan Shirley's piano visions

Staff reports

When music lovers think of classical piano, it’s usually framed in terms of works composed years ago that have stood the test of time. Nathan Shirley, however, has internalized the vocabulary and innovations of late Romantic piano and combined them with his personal musical vision to create fresh new repertoire.

The pianist/composer will perform on White Horse Black Mountain’s grand piano on Thursday, Oct. 27.

A Charlotte native, Shirley was born on the birthday of the great Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. Music in the Russian style has loomed large in his personal development. Although he’s largely self-taught, he was mentored in his teens by Olga Harris, the last student of Aram Khachaturian. Although he received a scholarship to study music, he left after a few years to follow his own muse.

Shirley has been influenced by the work of many composers, from the counterpoint of Bach and Vivaldi’s driving harmonies to the lush Romantic lyricism of Schumann and Chopin, and onward to the rhythmic ferocity of Stravinsky and Prokofiev. His eclecticism also embraces world music traditions such as Indonesian gamelan, African polyrhythms, the melodic embellishments of Persian music and lively Latin sounds.

Nathan Shirley has composed for film, animation, theater, and ballet.

The composer has a large number of published and recorded works in his catalog. Shirley has explored Biblical scenes, ancient musical modes and much more, including the seasonally appropriate "Black Cat Suite" inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe.

In addition to writing for the concert hall, Shirley has composed for film, animation, theater, and ballet, and presents workshops in schools that introduce children to the world of music. He and his family live in the mountains of Western North Carolina.