The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra presents an unusual season this year, featuring the four final candidates for music director. The finalists are diverse, conducting symphonies from Xalapa, Mexico to Lucena, Spain — from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Washington National Opera. One final candidate will be chosen as the next music director to conduct the 75th anniversary season in 2018-2019.
The season continues this weekend with James Ross on Saturday, Oct. 21, (8 p.m. at Schlesinger Concert Hall) and Oct. 22 (3 p.m. at the George Washington Masonic Memorial) with a concert inspired by nature. Complete with a mystery prelude related to the same theme, the concert evokes images of coastal shores and green pastures. Ross programmed the concert with these common ideas in mind, as he commented: “Birds, waves, rocks and a lonely human taking it all in — these are the elements that bind our program.”
One of George Butterworth’s last works before he gave his life as a soldier in WWI, “The Banks of Green Willow” incorporates folk songs and poetry from his native England. The “Four Sea Interludes,” which Benjamin Britten derived from his acclaimed opera “Peter Grimes,” paints the sea itself as character in this heartbreaking tale. “The North Sea takes on the role of psychological underpinning and commentary on an individual against society,” observes Ross. “That same craggy power and inwardness that infuses the Brahms Third Symphony is present in a raw form in the ‘Sea Interludes’.”
Ross is currently director of orchestras at the University of Maryland, recently completing a 16-year tenure. He also serves as the director for the National Youth Orchestra – USA, music director-designate of the Orquesta Simfònica del Vallès in Barcelona and serves on the faculty at The Juilliard School. He is internationally recognized for advancing the future of orchestras through cross-genre collaborations. His recent performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, presented in Catalan at the Palau de la Música, received an enthusiastic standing ovation. “I believe in the ongoing humanizing impact of classical music on the lives of those it touches,” says Ross.
The second half of the program features Brahms’ Symphony No. 3. “The symphony embodies a cycle of time,” notes Ross. “The first movement has the explosive energy of spring while the second is a summer pastorale. The third movement is autumnal and inward-turning; the final movement is again full of turmoil — a storminess of fire and ice — and brings us back to motifs from the first movement.”
Concert attendees, musicians and community members are invited to provide feedback after each performance in order to assess the four final candidates. The ASO plans to announce the new music director following the final concert of the season, and special events are planned to introduce him to Alexandria and the surrounding community.
The Alexandria Symphony is a fully-professional orchestra drawing from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region’s wealth of musical talent. Many musicians perform with other orchestras and top military bands. The ASO performs Saturdays at Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center and Sunday matinees at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Adult tickets are $20-$80, with $5 youth, $10 student and military, senior and group discounts available. To order tickets and for more information, visit www.alexsym.org or call 703-548-0885.