It Takes Two to Tango | Husband and wife duo headline ASO concert

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Tango.

No longer a mere noun or verb, the sultry tango of Argentina and Uruguay was recently designated as part of the worlds intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations.

Spawned more than a century ago in the barrios of Buenos Aires, the passionate art form is being celebrated this weekend by the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra as the equally passionate musical duo of Olivia Hajioff and Marc Ramirez open the second concert of the ASO season Saturday night at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center.

I think this is a particularly good program. There is so much variety, the pieces are really fun, Hajioff said of the concert that will feature Astor Piazzollas Winter from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires along with Piazzollas inspiration, Winter from Vivaldis The Four Seasons.

Everyone is familiar with the Vivaldi, she said. The Piazzolla is really fun and the [Malcolm] Arnold is short and has a rhythmic quirkiness. When weve played it to audiences before, they really love it and find it interesting the middle movement is very sensual, slinky and special.

The renowned violinist acknowledged that preparing for Saturdays performance has been a challenge at times, but she is excited that the playlist includes one of her favorite pieces to play Arnolds Concerto for Two Violins, which she will perform with her husband, Marc Ramirez. 

Married since 1997, the couple met while studying violin at the University of Maryland and together form the MarcOlivia Duo. 

We met in violin class, said Hajioff, who came to the United States from England on a Fulbright scholarship. He was nice to me after I played.

Both Hajioff and Ramirez grew up with musicians in the family and his parents, Connie and Abad Ramirez, had at one time served as president of the Arlington Symphony. 

Hajioff and her husband are also past winners of the Lasley Scholarship program co-sponsored by the Symphony Orchestra League of Alexandria and the ASO that helps support and teach young musicians.

She credited the competition for helping her develop into a professional musician.

Just having to get ready for something like that — preparing a concerto, a major concert makes you work hard and gives you a goal, she said.

Formerly instructors at Shenandoah University, the couple now teach violin and viola out of their Northern Virginia home and perform more than 40 concerts a year all over the world. They are Touring Artists for the Virginia Commission for the Arts as well as being on the roster of the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center.

Still, Hajioff said its not difficult spending so much time both living and working together with Ramirez.

Before we got married, we started doing duos in school, so wed already been working together, she said. I think we agree on quite a lot of things musically. We both try hard not to argue or bring other things into it from our daily life. Theres never been a piece that we disagree on. 

Despite their shared love of music and the violin, there was one problem that came up in preparing for Saturday nights performance deciding who would get to play what.

I think I really wanted to play the Piazzolla and Im the more pushy one, she laughed. This Piazzolla is unlike anything Ive played before. I think the quirkiness really appealed to me. Its something like playing jazz theres that freedom you get that you have on stage, theres a little bit of that.

Following closely on the heels of this concert is a new addition to the ASO season a jazz concert series at the Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre set to begin December 5.

Arlington has a great arts community and supporters, said Adrien Finlay, ASOs executive director. Since the demise of the Arlington Symphony, there is a need not being met that we can fill.
Maestro Kim Allen Kluge has long had his eye on ways to bring the ASO to Arlington, and when Norma Kaplan, the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division Chief, approached him, the two artistic innovators came up with what they hope will be a win-win partnership.

We are so fortunate to host the Alexandria Symphony at the Rosslyn Spectrum, Kaplan said. As we move forward, I hope to find new ways that both communities can work together to meet the cultural programming interests of all our citizens.

While Finlay praised both Kim and Kaplan for the strides they have made in furthering the arts in Northern Virginia, he did not hesitate when it came to applauding the real heroes behind the success of the ASO.

We couldnt do this without our generous supporters, Finlay said. They are the ones that have given us the ability to give the best possible concerts to go beyond the limits of the City of Alexandria and create a different set of patrons in a different demographic even in this difficult economy.

Finlay and the ASO are looking forward to making their December 5 debut at the Spectrum, which will be a presentation for adults of their popular childrens holiday performance of Duke Ellingtons version of The Nutcracker, and he praised Kaplan and her staff for making the ASO concert series in Arlington a reality.

It is so exciting for a group like us to be able to do this, Finlay said. Norma and the Arlington arts community have made a huge effort to welcome us. We couldnt be more grateful.

Maestro Kim Allen Kluge will conduct the second concert of the ASO season November 14 at 8 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at NOVA Community College, Alexandria Campus at 3001 N. Beauregard St. Tickets are $40-$70, with additional discounts for students and seniors and $5 youth tickets. For tickets or more information, call 703-548-0885 or visit www.alexsym.org.

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