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Photo Information

On Feb. 13, the Marine Chamber Orchestra performed the concert "Unlikely Pairings," conducted by Maj. Ryan J. Nowlin and featuring the music of Brahms, Haydn, and Anna Clyne. (U.S. Marine Corps Photos by Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust/Released)

Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust

Marine Chamber Orchestra Opens 2023 Season with Bach’s Goldberg Variations

13 Jan 2023 | Gunnery Sgt. Brian Rust United States Marine Band

“The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra kicks off its 2023 season this Sunday with two powerhouse pieces for strings, including Johann Sebastian Bach’s enduring masterpiece: Goldberg Variations. The concert, conducted by Assistant Director Maj. Ryan J. Nowlin, will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15, at Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria. Admission and parking are both free; no tickets are required.

“Sunday's program offers an opportunity to practice mindfulness in a busy, noisy, and uncertain world,” Nowlin said. “Bach's variations are, simply put, perfection.”

Bach’s Goldberg Variations is a seminal work of 30 variations on the initial aria and originally composed for keyboard. The construction of the variations is ingenious and creative and truly serves as a catalog of every popular style of the Baroque period. The best-known story behind the work is that Bach composed the variations for harpsichordist Johann Gottlieb Goldberg. Goldberg lived in the home of Count Kaiserlingk, the Russian Ambassador at the Saxon Electoral Court, and the Count suffered from intense insomnia. Goldberg slept in an adjoining room so always to be at the ready to play for the Count at any hour, who would often ask for Goldberg to play “my variations.”

Before the orchestra performs Bach’s immortal work, the ensemble will perform Philip Glass’ more contemporary Violin Concerto No. 2, American Four Seasons. In collaboration with violinist Robert McDuffie, Glass composed the work as a counterpart to Antonio Vivaldi’s beloved work of the same name. However, unlike Vivaldi, Glass decided to let the listener decide which season the music describes. He left the four main movements untitled and gave no clues as to where Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter appear. Preceding each “season” is a movement for solo violin, performed by Master Sgt. Erika Sato. Regarding the work, Sato remarked, “Much of the fraught tension (winter?) and spicy, fiery energy (summer?) throughout the piece are created very simply by the sequences of repeated patterns. There are moments of aching beauty in both spare and lush places.”

Nowlin added, “We are so excited to share Master Sgt. Sato’s stunning depiction of the late Philip Glass’ American Four Seasons. His singular perspective, and her virtuosic abilities, allows the listener to experience the season in a truly unique way.”

The Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center is located at 4915 East Campus Drive in Alexandria, VA. Free parking is available in the adjacent garage.

Program and notes
Directions and parking