THE WASHINGTON POST, May 10, 2015
The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has a knack for attracting guest soloists who have won recent competitions — and no wonder, because the pliant ensemble provides rising artists with an ideal setting in which to showcase their talents…
…(the orchestra’s) collective sonic power. Reveling in the brightly sweeping brash sounds and ardent melodies, the orchestra generated an elegant waltz and coasted through a joyous finale, prompting well-deserved audience whoops at the conclusion.
THE WASHINGTON POST, Feb 8, 2015
Zimmerman has championed Bodorova’s music … The symphony, my introduction to her music, seemed to fly by. Its 45 minutes of sometimes tender, sometimes brutal and chaotic, but always intriguing textures and rhythmic intricacies made architectural sense… Its four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast, made huge demands on both winds and percussion, and Zimmerman, …had both these sections impressively on their toes.
THE WASHINGTON POST, September 21, 2014
The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra gave a grand 58th season opener on Saturday evening by featuring a guest soloist who inspired an artful and lyrical collaboration at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts.
Making his Washington-area debut with Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, Alexander Schimpf displayed a remarkable ability to generate an expressive singing tone out of the Steinway grand. The orchestra, under Music Director Christopher Zimmerman’s baton, achieved a synchronous and responsive partnership with Schimpf, blending so effortlessly that the concerto took on the operatic quality of an aria. But the Fairfax Symphony also found moments to showcase its own talent in the dreamy instrumental solos that intertwined with Schimpf’s pianism and in the orchestral accompaniment where the group produced timbres that were infused with dynamism and pliant colors.
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
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, Washington Post 2013
“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, Washington Post 2012
“The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra is evidently more willing to push the envelope…Zimmerman’s energy and good will showed their best effect in the Bernstein…It was a note-perfect end to a very refreshing evening that spoke well for the programming vision of Zimmerman who just extended his Fairfax contract for another three years.”
Anne Midgette, Washington Post, 2012
Fairfax Symphony at GMU Center for the Performing Arts
…under conductor Christopher Zimmerman, violinist Chee-Yun (in Walton’s Violin Concerto) proved a commanding figure; even at demonic tempos and with the demand for phenomenal violin tricks of the trade… The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra concert opened with a properly boisterous and witty version of Bernstein’s Overture to his Broadway musical “Candide”. The evening closed with Dvorak’s cyclic Symphony no.9, “From the New World”, in a highly charged account that was overflowing with gorgeous solo playing.
Cecilia Porter, Washington Post, January 16, 2011
Fairfax Symphony at GMU Center for the Performing Arts
Avner Dorman’s new piece, “Lost Souls,” given its East Coast premiere by the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra at the
George Mason Center for the Arts on Saturday, is about something — other people’s musical ideas, explored in a
context of the paranormal. This piano concerto about piano concertos was written for pianist Alon Goldstein, who premiered it in Kansas City in November (and who was Saturday evening’s soloist). For all its kitschy accouterments, it is a delightful piece of music.
–Dorman thinks big — lots of notes, crashing sonorities, jazzy rhythms — and Goldstein has the chops to pull it off. But most of all, Dorman has a sense of humor that makes the whole undertaking work both musically and dramatically.
—The orchestra, under the direction of its new conductor, Christopher Zimmerman, was well rehearsed and did its job
Joan Reinthaler, Washington Post, March 15, 2010
Fairfax Symphony at GMU Center of the Performing Arts
…the Barber Violin Concerto was involved and warm, and Zimmerman whipped the final piece, Sibelius’s First Symphony, to a veritable crackle of energy by the last movement. Sibelius is a good fit for this orchestra, which seemed to respond to his big, warm melodies. The composer is a focus of the group’s next two seasons… It’s a worthwhile exploration.
Anne Midgette, Washington Post, January 25, 2010
“Fairfax Symphony’s New Music Director, Home at Last”
The best way to raise a regional orchestra is to treat it like a worldclass one. That’s the approach of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, Christopher Zimmerman. For Saturday night’s season opener at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, Zimmerman led the FSO in three 20th-century works that are challenging by any orchestra’s standards.
Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances From West Side Story featured precise attacks, good attention to detail and somewhat exaggerated tempos. Slow sections were very slow indeed, jazzy and dissonant elements were emphasized, and brassy multi-rhythms came through splendidly.
Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings was even better. Here Zimmerman shaped the music with his hands, eschewing a baton, obtaining fine balance between the total string section and the quartet that Elgar creates within it. This is music of baroque flavor filtered through Victorian sensibilities, and is very well suited to the warmth of the FSO strings. The performance, by turns ebullient and introspective, fully plumbed the music’s depths.
The FSO sound was not quite as compatible with Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” This orchestra is too urbane, its strings too smooth for such acerbic music. Stravinsky’s ballet is a half-hour tightrope walk from mystical eeriness to demonic barbarism. Zimmerman played up the constant thematic and scoring contrasts; brass and percussion were particularly strong. What was missing was a sense of barely suppressed madness. But with a start like this, Zimmerman can probably get the FSO to pull that off as their partnership progresses.
Mark J. Estren, Washington Post, September 14, 2009
“Fairfax Symphony’s Last Candidate Avoids Warhorses”
And now we have the thinker.
Each of the six candidates to become the new music director of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has shown a distinctive style in his or her “audition concert.” Christopher Zimmerman, the last of the group, put together the most unusual and thoughtful program…
Zimmerman is British, but unlike the other five candidates, he did not present a work from his home country. Nor did he do a standard-repertoire warhorse such as Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony or Beethoven’s Seventh. And he used the full orchestra in only one piece.
Zimmerman opened with Haydn’s Symphony No. 39, a fascinating G minor work whose stop-and-start first movement is positively eerie. Zimmerman got the silences right — a crucial element here — and drew very effective contrasts between forte and piano sections. Precision baton work, a nicely shaped minuet and a dramatic finale created a first-rate performance.
The full orchestra — and audience — got a real workout in Shostakovich’s intricate, noisy and anguished Symphony No. 10, a work permeated by the composer’s personal D-S-C-H musical monogram (D, E-flat, C, B in German notation). Zimmerman pushed the strings, especially in the quicksilver second movement, and they delivered beautifully. And he paid close attention not only to sarcasm and grotesquerie but also to soft passages — this orchestra can handle quietude, but few conductors ask it to.
Mark J. Estren / The Washington Post Monday, May 4, 2009
“Christopher Zimmerman showed up on the orchestra’s podium Friday at Severance Hall and catapulted works by Mendelssohn, Ginastera, Elgar and Haydn to the heights. This was some of the finest conducting at Severance Hall in recent years. The fact that the orchestra responded so brilliantly to its guest’s artistry (which) suggests a longing for leadership of such taste, energy and emotional generosity. Zimmerman … was sensitive to the stylistic needs of each piece and clear in conveying his ideas to the musicians. He is a conductor whose ideas begin with the composer…. Zimmerman simply immersed himself in the score’s (Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings) passion and pastoral beauty, conducting without baton like a chamber musician in intense conversation with inspired colleagues. The playing had warmth, vigor and biting articulation. Have these strings ever sounded better?… Has the entire orchestra ever sounded better?”
Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Zimmerman shaped the broodingly expressive paragraphs (of Shostakovich’s Tenth) with great care, using a fair measure of rhythmic flexibility and such haunting moments as the transition of the second subject from flute to violins had considerable atmosphere. The scherzo, crackling with venom, highlighted the orchestra’s flair for highly charged musical rhetoric without engulfing its evocative tone-painting, and the finale put the inherent nobility of the work into perspective.”
Neil Tierney, The Daily Telegraph, London
“There are debuts and then there’s what Christopher Zimmerman produced Thursday night as the new Maestro of the Symphony of Southeast Texas. Zimmerman chose Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony. His was a bold selection that produced a concert that left many of us searching for adjectives–the really big ones, such as sublime and spectacular… It must have been wonderful to play a symphony as important as this one with such inspiration. The talent of the musicians was unparalleled and Zimmerman was brilliant. Zimmerman proved Thursday night why he is exactly the right choice to lead the Symphony of Southeast Texas. It is not just his panache but his ability to deliver musical excellence. The audience, a robust one, clearly appreciated that. The standing ovation was awesome. It seemed that that the concert-goers couldn’t get to their feet fast enough to stand and applaud.”
Shari Fey/Beaumont Enterprise
“The evening’s star was actually guest conductor Christopher Zimmerman. The evening opened with Verdi’s La Forza del Destino Overture, a work the Edmonton SO has played many times but never with such impassioned boldness and clarity … but the great event was Brahms’ First Symphony. Zimmerman gave the work great space and brought out many details, especially in the cellos and double basses. The strings have seldom sounded sweeter and the brooding opening was properly weighty. The troubled slow movement was beautiful, and every phrase sang. The finale had unusual breadth and nobility right on to the blazing final pages. This was a masterly and mature performance and many in the audience gave Zimmerman a standing ovation.”
John Charles, The Edmonton Sunday Sun
“The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra introduced the young British conductor Christopher Zimmerman…. In such a familiar work as the “New World” symphony, it was refreshing to hear the music re-invigorated through Mr. Zimmerman’s clear sighted approach, one in which he allowed nothing to detract from a well-conceived plan and a perceptive instinct for instrumental detail. Contact with the orchestra seemed immediate, the result a reading in which the playing responded keenly to gestures which themselves were expressive both of the symphony’s fiery vigour and of its finer nuances. It was not at all surprising to read that Mr. Zimmerman had spent most of the past year working with Vaclav Neumann in Prague, for this interpretation, while asserting the strong individual personality, was thoroughly at one with its idiomatic Czech colouring and to its natural rhythmic ebbs and flows. In Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, too, it was good to hear such life breathed into the orchestral accompaniment to Marios Papadopoulos’ bold account of the solo part, a boldness not wholly justified by some accident prone octaves but one which underlined the essential spirit of his playing. Mr. Zimmerman also revealed a sharp interpretative profile and control of orchestral timbre in Sibelius’ “Finlandia”, throwing the music into sharp relief and contributing to this most auspicious London debut.”
Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph, London
“With a crisp baton technique, sure cues and strong body language — all mercifully without mannerisms or artifice — he drew shimmering pianissimi or volcanic utterance from the orchestra in all the works. With Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, he asked for brooding, elegiac sonorities for the Lacrymosa: a shattering intensity for the Dies Irae; and a mystical note of tranquility and reconciliation for the Requiem aeternam. Zimmerman’s view of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1 underscored its lyricism, its lightness — not levity — and wit…. His baton technique was solid, his cuing expert and his shaping of the movements within the whole structure remarkably precise. At no point did he descend into histrionics or cheap tricks to win over the audience and the members of the orchestra.”
Robert Newall, Maine Times
“A very important role in the evening’s success was British-American conductor Christopher Zimmerman’s. We could hear his deep relationship and understanding of Czech music. It was with the help of Vaclav Neumann, during Zimmerman’s assistantship to him, that this was built and refined.”
Telegraf, Prague Spring Festival (translated)
“The concert began with the quivering strings of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4. (Zimmerman) moved slowly, filling the hall with suspense and expectation as the audience waited for the full glory of the first theme. And when the music cut loose, the musicians ran high and mighty with it. There was control in every careful note of urgency. There was grace in every turn, around every wily corner. The musicians pulsated through the adagio, danced through the allegro vivace, and landed in light and clean semi quavers for the finale. When the piece ended, clearly they felt exhilarated too, and beamed at their leader. It seemed that Zimmerman was inseparable from the musicians. Conductor and orchestra seemed to breathe as one.”
Alicia Anstead, Bangor Daily News