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. But for sheer sonic beauty, the high point was Jonathan Leshnoff’s Flute Concerto. Written just a few years ago, it’s a shimmering and absolutely beautiful work, awash in the iridescent colors and elegant savagery of French flute music of the early 20th century. Flutist Christina Jennings gave it a spirited, quicksilver performance, and Zimmerman brought a fine cinematic sweep to the orchestral side of things, with deft and detailed interplay between Jennings and the woodwinds. Leshnoff is clearly one of the more gifted young American composers around; kudos to the Fairfax players for showcasing his music.
Brookes is a freelance writer.