March 27, 2014 -- style="line-height: 150%;">Throughout his nearly 10 years as Marine Band Director, Colonel Michael J. Colburn has invited a number of prominent guest conductors to take the podium of “The President’s Own,” including Leonard Slatkin, José Serebrier, Osmo Vänskä, Gerard Schwarz, and John Williams. At 7:30 p.m., March 31, the Marine Band will add one of the brightest conducting talents in classical music today to that elite roster when Giancarlo Guerrero, music director of the Nashville Symphony, takes the stage to lead a fresh and innovative program with the Marine Band.
“We regularly invite established orchestral conductors to the podium of ‘The President’s Own’ for two reasons,” Col. Colburn said. “To provide our musicians and our patrons with a unique concert experience and to offer an unusual opportunity for these orchestral conductors to work with the very talented members of ‘The President’s Own.’”
“I was familiar with Maestro Guerrero’s work from his marvelous recordings with the Nashville Symphony and his guest conducting appearances with a number of other American orchestras,” he continued. “We learned through some mutual friends that he also had experience working with wind ensembles early in his conducting career, so we thought he might be especially intrigued by the possibility of working with the musicians of the Marine Band. We were thrilled when he accepted an invitation and were so pleased to see how determined he was to fit us into his very busy conducting schedule!”
Maestro Guerrero is a native of Costa Rica and began his musical career as a percussionist, playing in both bands and orchestras. He studied conducting at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “My very first conducting experiences in college came from conducting wind ensembles,” he said, “and my first professional conducting post was conducting the Banda de San Jose, in Costa Rica, which was involved with many of the government’s official events.”
Before accepting his post in Nashville, he served as associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä and was music director of the Eugene Symphony in Oregon.
In addition to his performances in Nashville, Guerrero’s 2013-14 concert season includes conducting debuts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in France, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and Copenhagen Philharmonic. He will take the Cleveland Orchestra on tour and will return to the symphony orchestras of Cincinnati and Detroit. Despite this intense schedule, Guerrero made time to conduct the Marine Band. “I am always eager to establish new relationships with new ensembles that I haven’t conducted before, and the fact that I’ve admired the Marine Band for many years, it was impossible for me to deny myself the privilege to work with such a virtuosic group,” he said.
An avid new music enthusiast, Guerrero has chosen to open the Marine Band performance with Bells for Stokowski by the contemporary American composer Michael Daugherty. “We have collaborated many times in the past and this concert gave me an opportunity to champion one of Michael’s band works,” Guerrero said.
The tribute to Leopold Stokowski is uniquely relevant in this setting; Daugherty states that the conductor was so controversial that early in his career he “was fired from his organ post at St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York in 1908, after he concluded a service with ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’” Daugherty goes on to say that in the piece he imagines the legendary conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra “visiting the Liberty Bell at sunrise, and listening to all the bells of the city resonate.”
Although Kurt Weill’s Concerto for Violin and Winds will feature Marine Band violinist Staff Sgt. Sheng-Tsung Wang, its unique scoring includes outstanding percussion parts, hearkening back to Guerrero’s musical roots. Guerrero notes, “It’s one of the great violin concertos of the 20th century and a work that is too neglected.”
After a performance of the Concerto in 1926 in Zurich, German music critic Adolf Weissmann said, “Kurt Weill’s Concerto for Violin and Wind Orchestra was the most remarkable piece of the evening, because here the unusualness of the sound is linked with an originality of conception. One may be reminded of Stravinsky. But I believe that Weill is absolutely standing on his own two feet, with his strong contrasts between the soloist and the orchestra.”
The program will close with Igor Stravinsky’s monumental work, The Rite of Spring. From the evening of the première the work has never fallen out of fashion and continues to be performed regularly in concert halls around the world. Its dissonances, unusual scoring, and savage rhythms, once so exotic and outlandish, are the sounds and techniques that are now commonplace among orchestra and band composers.
In the words of Col. Colburn, this version is “a meaty transcription that will put the Marine Band through its paces.” Guerrero said it is a wonderful arrangement that “will truly be able to showcase the virtuosity of the Marine Band.”
Guerrero continued, “I know that this is one of the top wind ensembles in the world, working regularly with some of the top conductors and guest soloists; I was very honored when I was approached to make music with the wonderful musicians of the Marine Band.”
“The President’s Own” featuring guest conductor Giancarlo Guerrero will perform at 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 31 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va. The concert is free and tickets are not required; parking is available in the adjacent garage for a $6 fee.