Press releases and articles about the VCO

Virginia Chamber Orchestra 50th Anniversary

October 21, 2021
By David Siegel

Doug Lovejoy, Virginia Chamber Orchestra board president

"The Virginia Chamber Orchestra (VCO) has been tracking the fantastic development of Tysons for years, and to actually be opening our 51st season in the wonderful Capital One Hall is a dream come true," said Doug Lovejoy, Virginia Chamber Orchestra board president.

"From the VCO’s first ensemble concert in Tysons at 1st Stage Theater on the opening day of the Silver Line to our debut at Capital One Hall on Oct. 23, this has been a wonderful, wild ride for our orchestra, our patrons and the Fairfax community," added Lovejoy. "The Virginia Chamber Orchestra has had a singular, all-encompassing goal to establish a presence at an outstanding concert hall in Tysons, and opening at the Capital One Hall fulfills our wildest expectations."

David Grandis conducting Virginia Chamber Orchestra.

The Virginia Chamber Orchestra concert will be under the baton of Music Director David Grandis. VCO Maestro Grandis was recently awarded an International Conducting prize. Grandis is also Director of Orchestras at the College of William and Mary. Grandis will take patrons on a tour of the Mediterranean in a light and refreshing chamber concert with a program to include Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, "Italian,” Rossini’s Overture to “L’italiana in Algeri” (“The Italian Girl in Algiers”), and Fauré’s “Pavane.”

As a special guest soloist performer, stellar classical pianist Brian Ganz, will be featured. He will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. Ganz is recognized as one of the leading pianists of his generation. Ganz is on the piano faculty of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he is artist-in-residence. He is also a member of the piano faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. This will be his third appearance as soloist with the Virginia Chamber Orchestra.

“No matter what the circumstances of our lives, great music is there to lift us into a healing realm of beauty and poetry and story.” Ganz has written.

The Capital One Hall concert comes not long after the VCO showcased its musicians and programs in creative and exciting ensemble presentations outdoors in the magnificence of the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

Where and When: Virginia Chamber Orchestra 50th Anniversary concert at Capital One Hall, 7750 Capital One Tower Road, Tysons, VA on Oct 23, 2021 at 8 p.m. Tickets $40 -$50. For tickets go to www.virginiachamberorchestra.org. There is also a separate Gala and dinner on October 23 starting at 6 p.m. For details go to www.virginiachamberorchestra.org.

The VCO Finds a New Home at Capital One Hall

Brian Ganz will perform at Capital One Hall October 23. Photo by Jay Mallin
Brian Ganz will perform at Capital One Hall October 23. Photo by Jay Mallin

Brian Ganz will perform at Capital One Hall October 23. Photo byJay Mallin

By Collin Cope / Special to the Fairfax County Times

Celebrate The Virginia Chamber Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary

Experience the Virginia Chamber Orchestra (VCO) October 23 as they perform for their 50th anniversary in their brand new home, Capital One Hall.

While the recent opening of the venue will please many local arts enthusiasts, the VCO is currently the only orchestra making Capital One Hall their permanent performance home. Located in the heart of Tysons Corner at 7750 Capital One Tower Road, the venue includes a 1600-seat auditorium, a beautiful atrium and a rooftop garden.

Virginia Chamber Orchestra with Music Director David Grandis. Photo: Louis Sica for the VCO

Starting at 8 p.m, audiences will be treated to a special musical experience conducted by VCO Music Director and Director of Orchestras at the College of William and Mary, David Grandis. This will be Grandis’ first performance since being awarded an international conducting prize. “The orchestra has consistently presented challenging repertoire in a short amount of rehearsal time, and only seasoned professionals could achieve such standards of musicianship,” said Grandis.

As this will be their first performance following quarantine, Grandis made sure to choose a program which was “particularly soothing and uplifting.” In doing so, the decision to perform Rossini’s overture ensures audiences will experience “joy, lightness and excitement” following the long pandemic.

The show will also feature guest pianist Brian Ganz with a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. Ganz has performed to audiences at the Strathmore Music Center for 10 years and, during the pandemic, the National Philharmonic broadcast a solo recital from Brian Ganz on WETA, the area’s local PBS station. The broadcast was so successful, it was re-broadcast as an encore and Ganz’s performance on Saturday is highly anticipated.

“I’ve been thrilled to see how people are flocking to concerts as live performing returns, and the opening of this gem of a concert hall in northern Virginia is part of that testament to the vital importance of classical music in our lives,” said Ganz when asked about the return to live music following the pandemic.

Tickets to the performance start at $40 and are still available at vco.events. Parking is available below the venue in its parking garage and event organizers will guide you into the garage once you arrive.

Virginia Chamber Orchestra marks 50th anniversary
with move to Capital One Hall for performances

October 19, 2021
By David Taube

Pianist Brian Ganz will perform at Capital One Hall on Oct. 23 (photo by Jay Mallin/Virginia Chamber Orchestra)

The Virginia Chamber Orchestra is on the move.

After decades at Northern Virginia Community College’s Ernest Center in Annandale, the professional nonprofit orchestra will shift its base for performances and dress rehearsals to Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) in Tysons.

While the group has played outdoors during the pandemic, VCO will kick off its tenure at the new performing arts venue with a 50th anniversary gala and a concert on Saturday (Oct. 23) — its first indoor event since March 2020.

“This move illuminates a trend to large, impressive, acoustically excellent arts venues outside of the city center,” a news release says.

The concert, titled "An Evening in Italy", will be held at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $40 plus fees.

The gala will be held at 6 p.m., featuring cocktails and dinner as part of fundraising for the organization’s operations. The event will recognize donors as well as the Tysons McLean Orchestra, which announced in June it was ceasing operations after half a century.

“They thought it would be nice to recognize us,” said Ann Page, former TMO president and executive director. “This orchestra, 50 years ago, started out with volunteers.”

Joan Braitsch, former VCO board of trustees president and the gala’s chair, said that as part of event, sponsors and donors will each be given a plaque consisting of a signed copy of the music as a memento.

The VCO shared the following details on the event:

Marking the first appearance of Music Director David Grandis since receiving an International Conducting Prize, the concert will feature guest artist pianist Brian Ganz, one of the leading pianists of his generation, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 (“Italian”) will be another program highlight. …

Ganz commented: ‘You sometimes hear talk that classical music is in decline. I’ve been thrilled to see how people are flocking to concerts as live performing returns, and the opening of this gem of a concert hall in northern Virginia is part of that testament to the vital importance of classical music in our lives. The exact opposite of decline!’ …

For the orchestra’s first concert following the shutdown, David Grandis selected a program ‘particularly soothing and uplifting. Rossini’s overture will bring joy, lightness and excitement, and Brian Ganz’s interpretation of the Mozart’s K.488 will be an absolute delight, not to be missed. The program will conclude with Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, a joyful recollection of Mendelssohn’s travel in a sunny place and in better times.’

Braitsch says the move to Capital One Hall reflects a general push in the arts world to expand outside of city centers.

“More and more, there is this trend of trying to bring arts into the communities,” she said. “We wanted to move to Tysons because the population is anticipated to grow so much.”

BY DAVID SIEGEL - The Connection, August 21, 2021

‘Music in the Gardens’ Opens in September in Vienna

Spotlighting women composers as Virginia Chamber Orchestra performs

Patrons taking in a recent VCO concert at Meadowlark Botanical Garden. Photo by Louis Sica/Courtesy of VCO

Take in the stunning Korean Bell Garden located in Northern Virginia’s Meadowlark Botanical Gardens as the flawless backdrop to the Virginia Chamber Orchestra’s (VCO) ensemble’s latest outdoor series of live concerts.

Continuing its partnership with Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, a varied line-up of VCO ensembles will provide live music with the dramatic Korean Bell of Peace and Harmony as a visual focal point in a September series of Sunday afternoon concerts. The outdoor concerts will be performed in a socially distancing environment in recognition of ongoing COVID-19 health and safety guidance from the CDC, Commonwealth of Virginia and Fairfax County.

The four September Sunday afternoon concerts will highlight works of women composers who span the centuries and celebrate works of composers such as Mozart, Boyce, Borodin, Dvorak and Paganini and African-American composer William Grant Still.

Women composers to be performed include Austrian Maria Theresa von Paradis (1759-1824) who was blind from a very early age. As a composer and pianist she toured Europe. It is reported that Mozart even composed a piano concerto for her. A VCO string quartet will perform von Paradis’ “Sicilienne” on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 5, 2021. The program also includes compositions by Mozart, Kivrak, Still and Dvorak.

Contemporary American composer Mary Coy Whitmore’s “Scuttles for Solo Viola” will be performed on Sunday, Sept. 12. Whitmore will be present at the concert to talk about her piece "Scuttles for Solo Viola" to be performed by Osman Kivrak, the VCO's Principal Violist. The concert will include a VCO String Trio playing Mozart, Wanhal, Corelli and Telemann.

The Sept. 19 concert highlights woodwinds. British-American Rebecca Clarke’s (1886-1979) “Pastoral for Viola and Clarinet” will be performed. Music by Mozart, Boyce and Ibert will also be played. A VCO guitar quintet is the focus on Sept. 26 with music from the late Turkish composer Kevser Hanim titled “Nihavend Longa for Viola and Guitar.” The guitar centered concert will also highlight Mozart, Borodin, Paganini and Boccherini.

VCO announced as well that VCO Maestro David Grandis was awarded an International Conducting Prize. Grandis, additionally Director of Orchestras at the College of William and Mary, is one of only three prize winners in the recent twenty-eighth International Conductors Workshop and Competition (ICWC) Grandis competed against conductors from around the globe and the United States.

A glorious series of outdoor concerts performed with the highest artistic integrity awaits in the striking Meadowlark Gardens.

Where and When

Virginia Chamber Orchestra in partnership with Meadowlark Gardens presents “Music in the Gardens” at the Korean Bell Garden, Meadowlark Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Garden Court, Vienna. The four Sunday afternoon series from VCO ensembles are Sunday afternoons, Sept 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2021 from 3 to 4 p.m. Tickets: Concerts are free with admission to the Gardens $3 (ages 6-17 and those over 55) and $6 (Adults 18-54). Children under 6 are free. For details, go to https://www.vco.events/.

Note: Meadowlark Gardens will follow the latest COVID guidelines from the CDC, Commonwealth of Virginia and NOVA Parks and the Fairfax County Parks Authority. Bring a blanket or bag chair and enjoy. Picnicking is not permitted, please feel free to bring a beverage and snack or purchase in the gift shop. Alcohol is prohibited. It is approximately an 8-minute walk from the Visitor’s Center to the concert location.

Local orchestra director wins international conducting prize

July 30, 2021Maestro David Grandis

David Grandis, Virginia Chamber Orchestra (VCO) Music Director and Director of Orchestras at the College of William and Mary, was one of three prize winners in the 28th International Conductors Workshop and Competition (ICWC) held in Atlanta last month.

The event, held in cooperation with the Gwinnett Symphony Chamber Orchestra and Mercer University Townsend School of Music, is based on the techniques of Monteux, Musin and Szell.

Fifteen conductors, from China, Colombia, France, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan and 11 from the United States, conducted the professional ICWC orchestra in works by Barber, Bartok, Copland, Debussy, Mahler and Wagner. Winners were selected based on voting by the faculty and the professional orchestra musicians.

Virginia Chamber Orchestra Garners Front-Page

BY DAVID SIEGEL - The Connection, September, 2020

Virginia Chamber Orchestra and Meadowlark
Gardens Park partner for musical joy.

Through a unique partnership, live music will be heard within the surrounding beauty of the stunning public park, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. With the combined forces of the Virginia Chamber Orchestra and NOVA Parks, a series of live concerts will be performed in a socially distancing environment in recognition of COVID-19 health and safety requirements and Commonwealth of Virginia guidelines. Ending its current pause of live performance, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra (VCO) will have a three-concert series in September with both its own principal players and special guests to beguile patrons. The concerts will be about one hour in length. Each will be performed at the Korean Bell Pavilion in the NOVA Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.

"Our objective is to get as much enchanting music in the air for as many people as we safely can, in an entirely delightful setting,said Doug Lovejoy, VCO President. The musicians perform widely throughout Northern Virginia, the D.C. metropolitan area, and beyond,” said Lovejoy. For the opening concert on Sept. 6, the music of Beethoven, Bartok, Puccini, Piazzolla, and Arlen will be spotlighted. In a special duo, Jennifer Rickard, who has served both as VCO Assistant Concertmaster and as Principal Second Violin, will be joined by her husband, flutist, and saxophonist Andrew Axelrad. He recently retired from the Airmen of Note.

The music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Osman Kivrak will be spotlighted at the Sept. 13 concert. The duo of VCO Concertmaster Teri Lazar and her husband, Principal VCO Violist Osman Kivrak, will perform Kivrak's composition for violin and viola, ''Uzun Haza which was inspired by Turkish folk music.

Selections from Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, John Clayton, and Robert Oppelt will be featured at the Sept. 20 concert. VCO Principal Flute Nicolette Oppelt and her husband, NSO Principal Bassist Robert Oppelt, will be featured in Oppelt's ''Pas de Deux" for Flute and Double Bass. For those less familiar with the Korean Bell Garden, it was created via a joint effort between NOVA Parks and the Korean American Cultural Committee (KACC).

Virginia Chamber Orchestra To Hold Socially Distant Concerts

By Brooke Lewitas/Fairfax County Times Aug 28, 2020.

Throughout the month of September, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra will be offering outdoor, socially distanced concerts at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. The players will play in small groups so as to ensure a safe distance from one another.

The concerts will take place on September 6th, 13th, and 20th at 3 p.m.  The concerts will be free with admission to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, which is $3 for minors and seniors, and $6 for adults.

According to VCO board member Ann Sica, the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens are “a beautiful space, and very large. It seemed like an ideal place to be doing this, where people could be distancing.” The Gardens will require guests to wear masks in order to enter. “Everyone will be in a great big space, distanced from one another. People will be standing, others will bring picnic blankets and chairs.” The concerts will take place in the Korean Bell Garden, a large, elevated structure.

The ensembles will be playing classical works such as Mozart and Beethoven, and will also play several original pieces. The VCO’s principal players will be joined by guest performers, one of whom is the Principal Double Bassist in the National Symphony Orchestra. “In each ensemble, we will have a married couple, so they don’t have to worry about socially distancing from one another. It’s going to be a bit of a family thing,” said board member Ann Sica.

“Our players are all professional and play in other groups as well as the VCO.  They’re delighted to be performing because their opportunities to perform have been curtailed. They love to do this kind of intimate concert. They’re very happy about the whole thing.”

The VCO is the first classical group in the area to hold a live, outdoor event. “The VCO has been innovative in the past, so it’s not terribly unusual that we would be innovators now. We were one of the first to distribute music on the Internet before others were going down that path,” Sica stated. In a typical year, the VCO gives live, classical concerts at locations such as the Ernst Center at the Northern Virginia Community college campus, performs side by side with a college orchestra, and presents Musicales in private homes.

“Needless to say, the idea of doing outdoor, distanced concerts is totally new for us, but we’re happy to be able to offer this to the public, for people who are missing live music."

For Season Opening: ‘Shades of Autumn’ in Annandale - Virginia Chamber Orchestra opens its 49th season.

A fascinating musical program awaits audiences at Virginia Chamber Orchestra’s “Shades of Autumn.” Under the baton of VCO Music Director David Grandis, the concert arrives at the Ernst Community Cultural Center, Northern Virginia Community College.

Virginia Chamber Orchestra concert will include a program of works by Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg, and Vittorio Giannini performed by the string musicians of the Virginia Chamber Orchestra. Musical instruments will include violins, violas, cellos, and bass. Featured with the Virginia Chamber Orchestra will be harpist Isabelle Frouvelle. She recently performed for Virginia Chamber Orchestra audiences as a soloist for Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp.

Backbeat Underground Comes to 1st Stage in Tysons Soul-jazz group in a special musical event.

“We want everyone to begin thinking of Tysons as a vibrant and far-ranging musical destination,” said Douglas C. Lovejoy, President, Virginia Chamber Orchestra Board of Trustees. Working together with 1st Stage, “we are always on the lookout for performers who will attract audiences to Tysons. “Our partnership with 1st Stage goes back to the opening of the Silver Line in July, 2015. There are a number of dark stage evenings for 1st Stage that the VCO uses to bring music to Tysons,” said Lovejoy.

As for scheduling Backbeat Underground, “after listening to their music, it became obvious that this was an opportunity to introduce a unique sound at 1st Stage. Backbeat Underground will give us the opportunity to attract a unique segment of live music consumers in the area.”

For Season Opening: ‘Shades of Autumn’ in Annandale - ‘Music in the Life of Eisenhower’ on Annandale Stage
Musical commemoration of upcoming 75th anniversary of D-Day by Virginia Chamber Orchestra and special guest performers.

Next up for Northern Virginia’s Virginia Chamber Orchestra is a major concert to commemorate D-Day, actions that helped begin the end of WWII in Europe some 75 years ago. Under the baton of music director David Grandis, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra, along with the U.S. Air Force Airmen of Note and the Alexandria Choral Society Pro Coro Singers will perform “Music in the Life of Eisenhower.”

Special guest narrator and host, WETA’s Robert Aubry Davis will provide insights about Eisenhower’s musical favorites and will share what they reveal about the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II and later President of the United States.

Backbeat Underground Comes to 1st Stage in Tysons Midsummer Night with the Heat of Tango in Tysons
QuinTango performs at 1st Stage.

Ready for some Tango? The Virginia Chamber Orchestra will bring the passionate, sensual beat and heat of the Tango without a long-distance flight and jet lag when QuinTango brings award-winning tango music to the Classical Cabaret series at 1st Stage in Tysons. QuinTango is composed of violins, cello, bass, bandoneon and piano. The group showcases tango’s seductive music in a chamber music format and spices it up with gritty backstories.

Highlights of the evening will include traditional favorites “La Cumparsita,” “Por una Cabeza,” used in the memorable Al Pacino tango scene in “Scent of a Woman,” and the Piazzolla classic “Balada para un Loco.”

For Season Opening: ‘Shades of Autumn’ in Annandale - 1st Stage to host musical group All 4 Bass on November 16th

As the Tysons, Virginia area continues to undergo a major revitalization and regeneration into a new cityscape with a growing energized population, residents are seeking out venues for their performing arts cravings.  “We at 1st Stage are committed to being an artistic hub in our community.” said Alex Levy, Artistic Director, 1st Stage. “Besides our six-show season of plays and musicals, we also provide the opportunity to experience live music, dance, literary readings and educational performances.”

“For years, we have partnered with the Virginia Chamber Orchestra (VCO) to bring an eclectic mix of classical, modern and world music to 1st Stage. It has been an exciting partnership that we hope will continue for years to come.” added Levy.

“One of the fun things about our performances with VCO is that it gives both our audiences to see something a little outside our usual programming.” noted Levy, “ALL 4 BASE gives our inquisitive audience a chance to hear Classical, Jazz and Pops with orchestrations that will allow them to hear the music anew.”

Connection Newspapers, Thursday, April 27, 2017
Blending the Modern with the Nostalgic

By David Siegel

Burke — Northern Virginia’s own Virginia Chamber Orchestra (VCO) continues to be true to its mission to present fine music performed with the highest artistic integrity for the broadest possible audience. The VCO is a professional chamber orchestra with a majority of its musicians from Fairfax County.

Aiming to bring fine music to the broadest possible Northern Virginia audiences, “We have been programming more and more American composers in the past few years, filling a void in the performance repertoire of the region,” said David Grandis, music director, VCO. “It would seem legitimate to have an orchestra that showcases the American repertoire, not only for a reason of cultural patriotism and sense of national identity but also for promoting the ongoing creative minds of this repertoire.”

Having recently performed at the George Mason University (GMU Center for the Arts) with the GMUC Symphony Orchestra, VCO will end its current season with a performance at the Annandale Campus, Northern Virginia Community College. The performance is titled “America’s Musical Keepsakes.” It will showcase the American musical repertoire for a number of reasons including “cultural patriotism and sense of national identity,” said Grandis.

“America’s Musical Keepsakes” will feature works by three celebrated 20th century American composers; Samuel Barber (“Reincarnation”), Aaron Copland (“Old American Songs”) and Charles Ives (Symphony #3, “The Camp Meeting”) along with 21st century contemporary composer, Michael Mauldin (“Petroglyphs for Strings”). “Inspiration from the past is a significant aspect” of all the works that will be performed. The audience will hear music that has been “unfairly neglected,” added Grandis.

Adding a deeper level to the overall performance, the VCO will be joined by the Alexandria Choral Society on an arrangement of “Old American Songs” by Copland. “The VCO is extremely happy to collaborate once again with the Alexandria Choral Society because of the excellence of their musical accomplishments thanks to their singers,” added Grandis. “Having this choral group joining us was the perfect way to end this season.”

Artistic aspects of the VCO event will be further enriched with works on display by Northern Virginia photographer Jim Steele.

The VCO performs regularly at Tysons 1st Stage. Alex Levy, 1st Stage artistic director said, “The VCO believes that Fairfax County should be a home to world-class art. We are proud to host the orchestra in our theater and offer the community access to connect with the VCO in their own backyard.”

Story originally published at http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2017/apr/27/blending-modern-nostalgic (link will open in a new browser window)

VA Chamber Orchestra Salutes Lincoln the Music Lover

By Seth Arenstein, journalist, blogger, Vice President, DC Chapter, National Society of Arts and Letters, April 27, 2015

On April 12, to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra staged an event, clothed in the guise of a traditional concert. Calling its program “Music in the Life of President Lincoln,” the slate was filled with works in a variety of genres, from opera and choral music to a symphony and spirituals, nearly all of which Lincoln had heard during his presidency.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this concert was the braiding of music and history that resulted in an entertaining and edifying experience. Short, informative notes about Lincoln’s musical interests and the pieces were read by local radio and TV personality Robert Aubrey Davis, his familiar voice in top form. Mr. Davis’s introductions, read with gusto and humor, added needed context and relevance to the brief selections that comprised the program’s first half.

Under Music Director David Grandis, strong playing by the orchestra’s flute and piccolo dominated the early selections, including the overture to Martha, an opera by Friedrich von Flotow, which had been staged for Lincoln’s second inauguration. The orchestra ably supported the pleasant phrasing of soprano Meghan McCall in selections from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, which the Lincolns heard in NY City en route to Washington for his inauguration. Incidentally, the New Yorkers gave the first-couple-to-be a rousing reception, Mr. Davis said, with several of that evening’s soloists breaking into “The Star Spangled Banner” upon spotting the Lincolns.

Yet Lincoln’s most beloved forms of music were far simpler than opera. He was moved to tears by minstrel songs and spirituals. Ironically, the president adored Dixie, which Lincoln thought was the best tune he’d ever heard. Toward the war’s end, he suggested the adoption of Dixie as a national tune, partly as a symbol of unification.

Although we lack evidence that Lincoln heard tunes such as Oh! Susanna and Camptown Races, it is assumed he encountered them since they came from the best-known songwriter of the time, Stephen Foster. The Alexandria Choral Society joined the orchestra for pleasant arrangements by John D. Miller of both tunes.

The second half of the program paid tribute to Lincoln’s love of spirituals as the Grand Contraband Jubilee Singers performed tunes from “Slave Songs of the United States,” an 1867 compilation of more than 130 “plantation songs.” While the a cappella trio’s two soloists were strong and their rendition of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” was riveting, the third singer’s backup work was unsteady at several points.

The concert’s final work was the Symphony No. 2 in D minor of George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898). (Music Director David Grandis) displayed a steady hand throughout, leading the orchestra skillfully through difficult passages, particularly for the strings.

As in the earlier portion of the program, the precision of the ensemble was the orchestra’s most obvious strength; sectional playing by the upper strings and low brass was impressive. The piece’s novelty was a pair of melodious solos for trombone, handled with gorgeous sonority by principal trombonist David Perkel.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there were several groups of school children dressed in period costumes circulating before the concert and a Lincoln look-alike, dapper in his trademark stovetop hat and black silk coat, was on hand to host the post-concert reception. Perhaps purists will dismiss a program that resurrects largely forgotten music, albeit pieces with a historical significance, yet with many concerts blending in one’s memory, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra’s attempt at innovation should be applauded.

Emil de Cou Leads Dramatic "Enoch Arden"
Using his arrangement, VA Chamber Orchestra is vivid and touching

Washington Post, Tuesday, September 28, 2010; C02

As with many conductors these days, Emil de Cou jets around from one directorship to another. Hot off his stint as associate conductor of the National Symphony -- and about to embark on his newest gig as the Pacific Northwest Ballet's music director -- he kicked off his second season Sunday as music director of the Virginia Chamber Orchestra.

De Cou is not a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. He likes multimedia and unusual twists, and the program that he chose for the VCO opener at the Northern Virginia Community College's Ernst Community Cultural Center fit the mold well. It featured his arrangement for chamber orchestra of Richard Strauss's "Enoch Arden," an hour-long work (originally scored for piano) in which the poetry is paramount and the music provides dramatic context.

Strauss might have gone the way of the soppy film score in setting Tennyson's melodramatic saga, but then that would not have been Strauss-like at all. Instead, his music offers vivid snapshots, anticipatory flashes and brief reflections on the human condition. De Cou's orchestral realization of the original piano score is as subtle as it is Straussian, and actor Gary Sloan's reading was wonderfully conceived, both touching and understated.

The orchestra, well-rehearsed and alert, managed to bring coherence to a role that proceeded in fits and starts. Its evocations of delight and serenity were as convincing as its storms and solemnly philosophical utterances, and the horns, in particular, had a splendid night. This is a piece that doesn't get performed often, and it deserves better. It would be good if de Cou and Sloan, who worked together beautifully here, could take it on the road.

The program's other piece was a rather routine reading of the Mendelssohn "Scottish" Symphony. Its broad outlines were evident and, in particular, the recitative-like introductions to the first and third movements were well-shaped. But the second movement, Vivace, needed a much tighter rein. And throughout, the dial-setting of its dynamics seemed stuck on mezzo-forte.

By Joan Reinthaler
Washington Post Staff Writer

Virginia Chamber Orchestra scores de Cou

Washington Post, September 21, 2009

The Virginia Chamber Orchestra’s new music director is a familiar face at the Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap: Emil de Cou, associate director of the National Symphony Orchestra. The VCO gives de Cou a chance to innovate, and he seized it at Sunday's season opener at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, offering an unusual program of two concertos plus a chamber work.

Bach's F minor Harpsichord Concerto, BWV 1056, never sounds quite right on a modern piano even the VCO's baby grand. Bach's lovely second-movement contrast of plucked strings with plucked harpsichord notes, for example, gets lost in a piano's percussive sound generation. But Brian Ganz played the solo part with gentle warmth and minimal pedal, and the VCO strings' clean sound was pleasant.

The original 1944 Copland "Appalachian Spring," for 13 instruments, had delicacy and lightness missing from the later full-orchestra version, with cleaner ebb and flow. The nine strings, three winds, and piano scarcely needed a conductor at all, but de Cou made sure the simplicity of scoring reflected the simpler time to which the music points.

What really enthralled the capacity crowd was the muscular Ganz-de Cou rendition of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5. The "Emperor" is middle-period Beethoven, and it sounded wonderful with three dozen musicians instead of 90. From the start, when Ganz played as if he was determined to pound the keyboard into submission, to the puckish transition to an impressively speedy finale, there was an easy rapport between pianist and conductor, resulting in a wholly winning performance and a tremendously upbeat start to de Cou's leadership of the VCO.

-- Mark J. Estren

Virginia Chamber Orchestra, Off to a Fine Start

Washington Post, Tuesday, September 11, 2007; C07

The Virginia Chamber Orchestra opened its 37th season on Sunday before a packed and friendly audience at the Ernst Cultural Center of Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. The music was familiar and friendly, too, although not without melancholy: Conductor Luis Haza opened with an episodic but emotionally charged rendition of Sibelius's "Valse Triste."

Steven Hendrickson, principal trumpet of the National Symphony Orchestra, was featured in Hummel's splendidly superficial Trumpet Concerto, transposed from its original E Major to E-flat. Haza and the orchestra delivered bright, strongly rhythmic accompaniment as Hendrickson tossed off most of the turns and trills in the first movement with such verve that it was easy to forgive him a wrong note or two. The Andante was a pleasant interlude, featuring the trumpet's warm side. And Hendrickson made the finale a delight, enthusiastically handling its difficult leaps and ornamentation and contrasts between staccato and legato. The only oddity was taking the middle of the movement at a slower tempo than the bouncy start and brilliant finish.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 4 concluded the program by showcasing the energy and fine balance of the entire ensemble. There is plenty of power in this symphony, which Beethoven wrote after the "Eroica," but there is also a considerable delicacy. Haza skillfully brought out the bassoon line in the first movement, the middle voices in the second and the rhythmic vitality of the third. And the orchestra excelled in the finale's striking contrast of strong chords and lighter, scurrying passages -- proffering top-notch and genuinely cooperative music-making.

-- Mark J. Estren

Virginia Chamber Orchestra, Fresh and Lovely

Washington Post, Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Virginia Chamber Orchestra opened its season with a dynamic and generally successful performance Sunday afternoon at the Ernst Community Cultural Center in Annandale.

Under Music Director Luis Haza, the orchestra's 21 string players achieved a lovely balance of intellect and sensibility in Bach's Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D. The deliberate tempo allowed the conductor to emphasize the work's countermelodies. While he let the music ebb and flow naturally, Haza also coaxed some urgent swells at just the right moments.

Joined by two horns and two oboes, the orchestra took on a bright energy in Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in A. Its crescendos in the first movement sounded as fresh and dramatic as its lilting melodies sang out with clarity in the second movement. Lively rhythms in the third movement led to a spirited finale that rollicked with playful calls and echoes.--------

Haza and the VCO kept the concerto on course, maintaining the work's colorful nature. Indeed their perseverance generated some fine moments between orchestra and cellist----

-- Grace Jean

"Perfectly in sync, musically and metronomically"

"Dynamic, Spirited"

"Fine music-making is always in evidence"

"The Virginia Chamber Orchestra has developed a strong collective personality and a virtuoso flair"

"The orchestra responded to conductor Luis Haza with singular unanimity"

"The Virginia Chamber Orchestra consistently rank with the best"

The Virginia Chamber Orchestra has consistently received critical acclaim for the quality of its musical performances. The following are links to websites where the original reviews can be found.

Washington Post review of September26, 2010 concert

Washington Post review of September 20, 2009 concert

Washington Post review of September 9, 2007 concert

Washington Post review of March 20, 2005 concert
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Washington Post review of February 6, 2004 concert