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Photo by GySgt Brian Rust


8 Mar 2023 | by SSgt. Christian Thesken United States Marine Band

The Marine Chamber Music series continues with a unique performance this Sunday, March 12 at 2 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at Northern Virginia Community College, in Alexandria, VA.

In lieu of a conductor, this performance will be led by a viola or “Bratsche,” German for viola, and also the titular term for this concert. Viola-centric pieces by German composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Max Bruch will anchor the performance, featuring the rich tones of lower string instruments in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 and a viola solo in Bruch’s Romanze. In addition, contemporary works by Jessica Meyer and Sir William Walton will reflect the entire capability of a full string family.

This concert’s coordinator, Gunnery Sgt. Karen Johnson, offered the following on the program:

The genesis for the idea of this concert theme, featuring the viola, came about as my string colleagues and I were standing outside the White House before a performance and discussing how great Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 is. It is unique in that it doesn’t have any violinists in the ensemble, so it creates an entirely different sound world, exploring different resonances than what we are normally used to as string players. It creates a darker, more mellow resonance. The soloists in the Brandenburg 6 are the violists, which then became the focus of this concert. The unique sound and influence of the viola inspired the title of the program, ‘Bratsche,’ German for viola.

Not all the pieces on the program are focused solely on the viola specifically, but have a broader connection. Jessica Meyer’s Hello is not viola-specific in itself, but was originally conceived for solo viola, and Meyer herself is an accomplished violist. William Walton’s Sonata for Strings has many viola features contained within the piece. While not entirely centered on the viola, Walton is definitely a friend of the viola, having composed his Viola Concerto, a perennial favorite amongst violists and audiences alike. Lastly, Gunnery Sgt. Sarah Hart will be the featured viola soloist on a beautiful, soulful piece by Max Bruch, written in the ultra-romantic style and arranged for string orchestra.

I hope our audience leaves with a deeper appreciation for the viola. Situated solidly in the middle of the violin and cello spectrum, the many-times underappreciated but absolutely essential role and voice of the tenor string instrument, die Bratsche, definitely deserves a lot of love.

Program & Notes