From his professional debut, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, of which The Daily Telegraph of London observed "Contact with the orchestra seemed immediate, the result a reading in which the playing responded keenly to gestures which themselves were expressive both of the symphony's fiery vigour and of its finer nuances. Christopher Zimmerman revealed a sharp interpretative profile and control of orchestral timbre.... a most auspicious London debut." to guest conducting in Cleveland with the Ohio Chamber Orchestra, where Donald Rosenberg of the Cleveland Plain Dealer described his performance as "some of the finest conducting at Severance (Hall) in recent years," Zimmerman elicits enthusiasm and praise.
Christopher Zimmerman graduated from Yale with a B.A. in Music, and received his Master's from the University of Michigan. He also studied with Seiji Ozawa and Gunther Schuller at Tanglewood, and at the Pierre Monteux School in Maine with Charles Bruck. Zimmerman served as an apprentice to Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony and in Prague, as assistant conductor to Vaclav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
Zimmerman's debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was followed by engagements with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. He has also conducted the Prague Symphony, the Slovak Philharmonic, the Seoul Philharmonic, the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Edmonton Symphony, the Hartford Symphony, the El Paso Symphony, the Ohio Chamber Orchestra and the Prague Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra among many other orchestras. In opera he has worked as the assistant conductor for Carmen at the Nimes Festival and as assistant conductor for Salome at the Mexico City Opera where he was immediately re-invited to conduct a production of Gianni Schicchi. In 1989 he co-founded and became Music Director of the City of London Chamber Orchestra.
In 1993 Christopher Zimmerman became Music Director of the Cincinnati Concert Orchestra. His U.S. operatic debut conducting Carlisle Floyd's Susannah won the National Opera Association's First prize as did Bright Sheng's Song of Majnun, which he also led. Zimmerman's operatic repertoire is as diverse as it has proven successful, from Handel's Julius Caesar through Verdi, Puccini, Strauss and Sheng.
A champion of contemporary music, Zimmerman has conducted more than 25 premieres (many, world premieres) of such eminent composers as Bolcom, Bresnick, Colgrass, Rouse, Sheng, Weir and Zivkovic.
Prior to his appointment to the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, Christopher Zimmerman was Music Director of the Symphony of Southeast Texas and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and the City of London Chamber Orchestra. In 1999 he was appointed Music Director of the Hartt Symphony and Primrose Fuller Professor of Orchestral Studies at the Hartt School.
In 2009 Maestro Zimmerman made his debut as Music Director of the Eleazar de Carvalho Festival in Brazil and in 2011 he was invited back in that capacity. In 2010 he returned for a third season as a guest conductor at the Wintergreen Performing Arts Festival in Virginia. The past few seasons have also brought guest engagements with the Thunder Bay and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, the Toronto Philharmonia and two guest tours of orchestras in China. From 2005-2010, Mr. Zimmerman co-led the prestigious Rose City International Conductors' Workshop in Portland, Oregon. In July 2011, Mr. Zimmerman was announced the winner of the American Conducting Prize (professional orchestra category).
The Washington area has so many regional orchestras that the enterprising ensembles among them would do well to distinguish themselves from the crowd. Christopher Zimmerman, the music director of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, has been doing just that with his alluring choice of repertoire.
Elgar's "Serenade in E Minor" was a mellow experience, the outer movements gently rolling and the middle slow movement tender, the juicy dissonances drawn out sweetly. Britten's "Simple Symphony" was just as pleasing, each movement like a bite-size petit four, here tart and there chocolate-smooth.
Watch out for Christopher Zimmerman. The music director of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has been injecting adrenaline into this small but determined ensemble since he took over in 2009. And the resulting performances - to judge by Saturday's imaginative, high-octane concert at George Mason University's Center for the Arts - have made the Fairfax players a serious force to be reckoned with.
Take the overture to Mozart's "The Magic Flute," which opened the program. Opened, actually, is too mild a word: The work shot out of the gate with so much heady momentum it blew your ears back. But there was no sacrifice of detail or elegance, either. Zimmerman conducts with a kind of coiled ferocity - you sensed he might pounce into the orchestra at any moment, to carry off the weak and slow - and the playing crackled with electricity and almost physical power.
"That, more or less, was the tone throughout the evening. Charles Ives's contemplative "The Unanswered Question" received a beautifully nuanced performance, and the evening closed with a dramatic, big-boned account of Brahms's Symphony No. 1, vividly drawn and riveting to its core. But for sheer sonic beauty, the high point was Jonathan Leshnoff's Flute Concerto. Written just a few years ago, it's a shimmering and absolutely beautiful work, awash in the iridescent colors and elegant savagery of French flute music of the early 20th century. Flutist Christina Jennings gave it a spirited, quicksilver performance, and Zimmerman brought a fine cinematic sweep to the orchestral side of things, with deft and detailed interplay between Jennings and the woodwinds. Leshnoff is clearly one of the more gifted young American composers around; kudos to the Fairfax players for showcasing his music.
The overture to Rossini's opera "La Gazza Ladra" and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B Minor ("Pathetique") exist in opposite universes - the first, a place where confidence and bumptious good humor rules; the other, a cauldron of dark passions and fierce exaltation. What they share, however, is an imperative for urgent momentum. And conductor Christopher Zimmerman and his Fairfax Symphony Orchestra do momentum exceedingly well.
Their program at George Mason University's Center for the Arts on Saturday opened with the Rossini and ended with the Tchaikovsky, revealing a string section that never let velocity blur its crisp ensemble, a wind section that handled the spotlight eagerly and a percussion section that had a field day in both pieces… the spirit of the Rossini was delightful and Zimmerman drove a clearly mapped course through the thicket of the symphony that focused on its architecture and reveled in its contrasts.
The Fairfax Symphony Orchestra is evidently more willing to push the envelope…Zimmerman's energy and good will showed their best effect in the Bernstein…It was a note-perfect end to a very refreshing evening that spoke well for the programming vision of Zimmerman who just extended his Fairfax contract for another three years.
…The FSO concert opened with a properly boisterous and witty version of Bernstein's overture to his Broadway musical "Candide." The evening closed with Dvorak's cyclic Symphony No. 9, "From the New World," in a highly charged account that was overflowing with gorgeous solo playing.
…the Barber Violin Concerto was involved and warm, and Zimmerman whipped the final piece, Sibelius's First Symphony, to a veritable crackle of energy by the last movement. Sibelius is a good fit for this orchestra, which seemed to respond to his big, warm melodies. The composer is a focus of the Fairfax Symphony's next two seasons… It's a worthwhile exploration.
"The best way to raise a regional orchestra is to treat it like a world-class one. That's the approach of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra's new music director, Christopher Zimmerman. For Saturday night's season opener at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, Zimmerman led the FSO in three 20th-century works that are challenging by any orchestra's standards.
Bernstein's Symphonic Dances From West Side Story featured precise attacks, good attention to detail and somewhat exaggerated tempos. Slow sections were very slow indeed, jazzy and dissonant elements were emphasized, and brassy multi-rhythms came through splendidly.
Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for Strings was even better. Here Zimmerman shaped the music with his hands, eschewing a baton, obtaining fine balance between the total string section and the quartet that Elgar creates within it. This is music of baroque flavor filtered through Victorian sensibilities, and is very well suited to the warmth of the FSO strings. The performance, by turns ebullient and introspective, fully plumbed the music's depths.
….The Rite of Spring is a half-hour tightrope walk from mystical eeriness to demonic barbarism. Zimmerman played up the constant thematic and scoring contrasts; brass and percussion were particularly strong. What was missing was a sense of barely suppressed madness. But with a start like this, Zimmerman can probably get the FSO to pull that off as their partnership progresses."
...This was some of the finest conducting at Severance (Hall) in recent years. The fact that the orchestra responded so brilliantly to its guest's artistry suggests a longing for leadership of such taste, energy and emotional generosity. Zimmerman... was sensitive to the stylistic needs of each piece and clear in conveying his ideas to the musicians. He is a conductor whose ideas begin with the composer.... Zimmerman simply immersed himself in the score's (Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for Strings) passion and pastoral beauty, conducting without baton like a chamber musician in intense conversation with inspired colleagues. The playing had warmth, vigor and biting articulation. Have these strings ever sounded better?... Has the entire orchestra ever sounded better?
...the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra introduced the young British conductor Christopher Zimmerman... In such a familiar work as the "New World" symphony, it was refreshing to hear the music re-invigorated through Mr. Zimmerman's clear sighted approach, one in which he allowed nothing to detract from a well-conceived plan and a perceptive instinct for instrumental detail. Contact with the orchestra seemed immediate, the result a reading in which the playing responded keenly to gestures which themselves were expressive both of the symphony's fiery vigour and of its finer nuances. It was not at all surprising to read that Mr. Zimmerman had spent most of the past year working with Vaclav Neumann in Prague, for this interpretation, while asserting the strong individual personality, was thoroughly at one with its idiomatic Czech colouring and to its natural rhythmic ebbs and flows. In Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, too, it was good to hear such life breathed into the orchestral accompaniment to Marios Papadopoulos' bold account of the solo part, a boldness not wholly justified by some accident prone octaves but one which underlined the essential spirit of his playing. Mr. Zimmerman also revealed a sharp interpretative profile and control of orchestral timbre in Sibelius' "Finlandia", throwing the music into sharp relief and contributing to this most auspicious London debut.
...Zimmerman shaped the broodingly expressive paragraphs (of Shostakovich's Tenth) with great care, using a fair measure of rhythmic flexibility and such haunting moments as the transition of the second subject from flute to violins had considerable atmosphere. The scherzo, crackling with venom, highlighted the orchestra's flair for highly charged musical rhetoric without engulfing its evocative tone-painting, and the finale put the inherent nobility of the work into perspective.
The evening's star was actually guest conductor Christopher Zimmerman. The evening opened with Verdi's La Forza del Destino Overture, a work the Edmonton SO has played many times but never with such impassioned boldness and clarity....but the great event was Brahms' First Symphony. Zimmerman gave the work great space and brought out many details, especially in the cellos and double basses. The strings have seldom sounded sweeter and the brooding opening was properly weighty. The troubled slow movement was beautiful, and every phrase sang. The finale had unusual breadth and nobility right on to the blazing final pages. This was a masterly and mature performance and many in the audience gave Zimmerman a standing ovation.
With a crisp baton technique, sure cues and strong body language - all mercifully without mannerisms or artifice - he drew shimmering pianissimi or volcanic utterance from the orchestra in all the works. With Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, he asked for brooding, elegiac sonorities for the Lacrymosa; a shattering intensity for the Dies Irae; and a mystical note of tranquility and reconciliation for the Requiem aeternam. Zimmerman's view of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 underscored its lyricism, its lightness - not levity - and wit. ........ His baton technique was solid, his cuing expert and his shaping of the movements within the whole structure remarkably precise. At no point did he descend into histrionics or cheap tricks to win over the audience and the members of the orchestra.