See my preview of the score of smaller orchestras in the Washington area:
Preview of Washington’s Regional Orchestras (The Washingtonian, September 2):
For an art form that is supposedly dying, classical music certainly has enough practitioners in the Washington area. There are so many regional orchestras, both professional and volunteer -- over 30, by one count -- that it is hard to keep track of them all. The advantage of these organizations is that one of them may be relatively close to where you live, especially convenient for those who live in the suburbs, and the ticket prices tend to be lower than the two leading orchestral ensembles in the area. At the same time, from what I have heard anyway, the musical quality is, not surprisingly, correspondingly lower. Whether that is a fair trade off is a matter of a listener’s personal taste. These ensembles do still offer musically rewarding experiences that enrich their local communities, and they may be more welcoming and appreciative of the their audience’s support. For the listener interested in hearing more unusual repertoire, these smaller ensembles sometimes take bigger risks, too.
The National Philharmonic has the luxury of playing in one of the most beautiful orchestral acoustics in the area, the Music Center at Strathmore. Perhaps for that reason, the ticket costs are roughly equal to those of the Baltimore Symphony and National Symphony. The all-professional National Philharmonic does offer an excellent option for introducing the young person in your life to classical music: Kids can get a free ticket when accompanied by an adult paying full price. Next season includes Corigliano’s "Red Violin" concerto (October 1 and 2), Amy Beach’s Grand Mass in E-flat Major (November 12), and the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian to honor the 150th anniversary of Claude Debussy’s birth next year (May 19), plus a lot of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and other favorites. [Continue reading]