Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s Imaginary Symphony

Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s Imaginary Symphony

The “Imaginary Symphony” depicts visions of idyllic beauty against the realities of war.

The Alexandria Symphony Orchestra opens its 2019-2020 season on Oct. 5 and 6 with a re-imagining of the symphony. Maestro James Ross, known for his innovative formats and approaches to classical music, has arranged an “Imaginary Symphony,” constructed from four different works across centuries and continents, commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“Conductors are rarely composers, but we are certainly the most personal advocates for other composers’ works,” explains Ross. “By excerpting the strongest movements from these existing works, it creates a musical grab bag and new symphonic narrative. I hope to shed deserved light on composers and pieces that have lain unfairly absent from our concert halls.”

The “Imaginary Symphony” depicts visions of idyllic beauty against the realities of war. The first movement is borrowed from William Walton’s Symphony No. 1 (mvt. I), composed prior to WWII and foreshadowing the impending war with dark and intense agitation. Next, Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony (mvt. II) paints a pastoral, tranquil landscape — reminiscent and nostalgic. “On the Cliffs of Cornwall” from Ethel Smyth’s opera The Wreckers furthers the comfort of peaceful times. (Incidentally, Beach and Smyth were pioneers of their times — one the first American woman to publish a symphonic work and the other a fierce suffragist.) The final excerpt is Honegger’s Symphony No. 3 (mvt. III), conjuring marching armies and evaporating into a call for peace.

In addition to the “Imaginary Symphony,” the ASO will present Tidbit #1 by Lionel Semiatin. The composer fought on the battlefield at Normandy, writing this piece shortly after as a love letter to America. Semiatin’s daughter, Gene Pohl, frequently plays in the ASO’s viola section and will perform her father’s piece for the first time; Pohl joins Maestro Ross for a pre-concert chat prior to Saturday’s performance.

The program also features Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with soloists Rita Sloan (piano), Nicholas Tavani (violin) and Alan Richardson (cello). Tavani and Richardson perform frequently as members of the famed Aeolus Quartet, and Sloan is internationally recognized as a leading teacher of collaborative piano and chamber music, performing through the United States and abroad.

The Alexandria Symphony is a fully-professional orchestra drawing from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region’s wealth of musical talent. Many musicians perform with other orchestras and top military bands. The ASO performs Saturday evenings (8:00 p.m.) at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center and Sunday matinees (3:00 p.m.) at the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Single tickets are $20-$85 for adults, $5 for youth (18 and under), and $10 for students (with ID). The ASO also offers senior and group rates and a special discount for military employees and veterans for this performance. For tickets and more information, visit or call (703) 548-0885.