Lessons in romantic contrast from the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, along with conductor Christopher Zimmerman, welcomes the internationally renowned pianist James Dick to perform Tchaikovsky's immortal Piano Concerto No. 1 this Saturday at George Mason University's Center for the Arts. The much beloved opus is bookended by Rossini's "Overture to La Gazza Ladra" and Tchaikovsky's seminal last work, the Symphony No. 6.

Zimmerman explains the rhyme and reason behind his programming that juxtaposes the Italian composer of more than 30 operas with the intensity of the great Russian composer of the Romantic period.

"There is an overriding theme for this season and a couple of seasons to come," he explained. "The topic is 'Mischief in Music -- Wit, Insolence and Insurrection.' There are the spectrums; from the lighter side of music to the darker side. The mischief, in this case, is the Rossini Overture."

The darker side, by contrast, is Tchaikovsky's 6th and last composition, one that Zimmerman places under the category of insurrection.

Onstage
Fairfax Symphony Orchestra: Tchaikovsky and Rossini
Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Info: $25 to $55; 888-945-2468; cfa.gmu.edu

"The fact that it ends so morbidly, with a very slow, sorrowful movement after a very upbeat one was extremely original for the time," he continued. "The last few pages ... are death put to music, and indeed, he died not long after composing it."

The question remains whether he committed suicide or died of ingesting contaminated water. It was a sorrowful end for the composer of the "1812 Overture" and "The "Nutcracker Suite," enjoyed by millions during the holidays.

"Tchaikovsky was a great admirer of Beethoven and was absolutely obsessed with Mozart," Zimmerman explained. "He never felt that he quite achieved the kind of symphonic structure that those composers managed, [but] I think he totally succeeded with a structure that is completely compelling. His best work was nigh on perfect."

Where the dynamic Piano Concerto No. 1. is concerned, Zimmerman admits the piece doesn't fit into the theme of the season, adding, "That's OK. It's a quirky piece and I think his most popular work other than 'The Nutcracker.' "

The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has flourished over the years as one of the finest regional orchestras in the country, with a mission to "explore and present the symphonic repertoire, both traditional and modern for the diverse audiences of the Northern Virginia region while building the musicians and audiences of the future through education and outreach programs."

Zimmerman puts it simply, noting, "The players are most assuredly committed to the work."

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Marie Gullard

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner