Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s new music director Eric Jacobsen makes his debut with Branford Marsalis

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  • Branford Marsalis
    Branford Marsalis
    American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader (born 1960)
  • Sally Beamish
    British composer and violist

Eric Jacobsen, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, makes his debut this week with concerts at three Hampton Roads venues and with Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer Branford Marsalis.

The performances will be at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News Thursday, Chrysler Hall in Norfolk Friday and the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach Sunday.

Jacobsen, whose tenure with VSO started July 1, has been praised by the Los Angeles Times as helping to ensure “the future of classical music in America” with his command of the classics and ability to innovate and satisfy more diverse listeners.

Jacobsen, 39, also serves as music director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.

With this week’s performances, Jacobsen will open with Mozart’s overture to “The Marriage of Figaro” and include works from Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and London-based composer Sally Beamish. Beamish’s pieces were written for saxophone and orchestra, and she and Marsalis have worked together. Beamish will attend the local concerts and sit in on recording sessions for a CD slated for a 2022 release.

Marsalis is part of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, which was formed in 1986. He is as well known for his renditions of Claude Debussy, Mahler and Ralph Vaughan Williams and his collaborations with the Grateful Dead and Sting. Marsalis’s work on Broadway has earned him a Drama Desk Award and Tony nominations for revivals of “Children of a Lesser God,” “Fences” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” His screen credits include original compositions for Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” starring Oprah Winfrey and the Netflix adaptation of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman released in December 2020.

The weekend’s performances will be recorded for streaming and available at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 through Dreamstage.

Tickets start at $25 at virginiasymphony.org or 757-892-6366. They’re also available for purchase through each venue. Masks are required.

Saleen Martin, 757-446-2027, saleen.martin@pilotonline.com

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If you go

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Ferguson Center for the Arts, 1 Avenue of the Arts, Newport News

Tickets: Start at $25

Details: tickets@cnu.edu, tinyurl.com/EJFergusonCenter, 757-594-8752

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When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Chrysler Hall, 215 Saint Paul’s Boulevard, Norfolk

Tickets: Start at $54

Details: tinyurl.com/EJChryslerHall, 757-664-6464

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When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Market St., Virginia Beach

Tickets: Start at $25

Details: info@sandlercenter.org, tinyurl.com/EJSandlerCenter, 757-385-2787

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