Behind the Scenes with Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez
Artistic Director of the New Orchestra of Washington
Our upcoming co-presentation of Día de los Muertos: Featuring Brahms’s Requiem with the New Orchestra of Washington (NOW) merges reverence and celebration, forming an embrace of our shared destiny that will change the way you experience your world.
Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, conductor and Artistic Director of NOW, shared insights on the transformative power of music, and how this power shapes his conducting, playing, and listening.
Choral Arts: Could you tell us about your roles as the artistic director and conductor with NOW?
Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez: I have the privilege of having served as artistic director and conductor of the New Orchestra of Washington (NOW) since its founding, 10 years ago. In addition to programming and conducting our concerts, I have also the pleasure of being an advocate for the orchestra in the Washington community and in other places where I frequently travel for work, such as New York City and Texas. NOW is a wonderful organization made up of a great number of people that are passionate about presenting performances that are exciting, moving, immersive, and experiential.
Choral Arts: What was your favorite part of crafting the upcoming presentation of Día de los Muertos: Featuring Brahms’s Requiem with Choral Arts?
Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez: I have been very impressed by the imagination and adaptability of the team from CASW and NOW that have come together to conceptualize this year’s Dia de los Muertos performance. Because we are unable to present this concert the way we have in the past several years at the beautiful Mexican Cultural Institute, we are thinking outside the box and coming up with a program that presents Brahms’s Requiem in a new light. We are mixing past, live (without audience), and virtual performances to encapsulate the spirit of our current reality while giving us hope and comfort for a pandemic-free future.
“I believe some songs were destined to become immortal from the very moment they were put down on paper.”
Choral Arts: Tell us about a piece of music that has transformed the way you see the world. How did it change your perspective?
Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez: For the past couple months I have been immersed in a very personal and fulfilling project: recording all the Chopin Nocturnes. I have found great comfort and solace in playing these pieces that capture a variety of moods and emotions in a compact, tripartite form. This is music that feels to me like a balm of sorts and its beautiful melodies and haunting harmonies have been nothing short of therapeutic for me. This music also reminds me of the beauty we are surrounded with, even during these difficult times. My appreciation for nature — the joy of a hike or a long walk in the neighborhood — has been enhanced by the evocative nature of these wonderful pieces.
Choral Arts: What musicians or composers are you listening to in quarantine?
Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez: I have become almost obsessed with the lieder of Franz Schubert. Out of 600 songs, which I listened to with the joy of a child in a candy shop, I selected 24 songs that I plan to work with for the next few months in several capacities. These are songs that encompass the entire gamut of human emotions: love, loss, hope, hopelessness, fantasy, and even terror. The level of inspiration and effort that must have been required from Schubert to write this immense and greatly gratifying body of music is hard to imagine, especially considering his premature departure from this world. I believe some of these songs were destined to become immortal from the very moment they were put down on paper. Like Chopin’s Nocturnes, this is music that has sustained me during the past several months and that continues to enrich my spirit.
The New Orchestra of Washington (NOW) and Choral Arts celebrate Día de los Muertos in a joint presentation featuring Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem.