THE WASHINGTON POST, January 19, 2014

The Washington area has so many regional orchestras that the enterprising ensembles among them would do well to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Christopher Zimmerman, the music director of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, has been doing just that with his alluring choice of repertoire. The group’s latest concert, on Saturday night at George Mason University, brought together four pieces that I have not heard from a local orchestra in at least a decade.

A mirrorlike arrangement of the pieces embedded two more serious works between lighter ones, by Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten, both of which recycle and preserve music written early in each composer’s career. Elgar’s “Serenade in E Minor” was a mellow experience, the outer movements gently rolling and the middle slow movement tender, the juicy dissonances drawn out sweetly. Britten’s “Simple Symphony” was just as pleasing, each movement like a bite-size petit four, here tart and there chocolate-smooth.

The heart of the program was Britten’s “Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings,” featuring an elegiac, at times eerily menacing performance by tenor William Hite. Horn player Eric Moore played what looked like a natural horn for the outer movements, heightening the effect of the natural harmonics, which sound slightly out of tune, that Britten wanted in those sections.

Charles T. Downey


THE WASHINGTON POST,  2013

“Watch out for Christopher Zimmerman. The music director of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has been injecting adrenaline into this small but determined ensemble since he took over in 2009. And the resulting performances — to judge by Saturday’s imaginative, high-octane concert at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts — have made the Fairfax players a serious force to be reckoned with. 

Take the overture to Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” which opened the program. Opened, actually, is too mild a word: The work shot out of the gate with so much heady momentum it blew your ears back. But there was no sacrifice of detail or elegance, either. Zimmerman conducts with a kind of coiled ferocity — you sensed he might pounce into the orchestra at any moment, to carry off the weak and slow — and the playing crackled with electricity and almost physical power.

That, more or less, was the tone throughout the evening. Charles Ives’s contemplative “The Unanswered Question” received a beautifully nuanced performance, and the evening closed with a dramatic, big-boned account of Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, vividly drawn and riveting to its core….”

Stephen Brookes


THE WASHINGTON POST,  2012

“The overture to Rossini’s opera “La Gazza Ladra” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor (“Pathetique”) exist in opposite universes — the first, a place where confidence and bumptious good humor rules; the other, a cauldron of dark passions and fierce exaltation. What they share, however, is an imperative for urgent momentum. And conductor Christopher Zimmerman and his Fairfax Symphony Orchestra do momentum exceedingly well.

Their program at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts on Saturday opened with the Rossini and ended with the Tchaikovsky, revealing a string section that never let velocity blur its crisp ensemble, a wind section that handled the spotlight eagerly and a percussion section that had a field day in both pieces… the spirit of the Rossini was delightful and Zimmerman drove a clearly mapped course through the thicket of the symphony that focused on its architecture and reveled in its contrasts.”

Joan Reinthaler

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