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March 23, 2010

Baltimore Symphony's 2010-11 season rich in Mahler, Verdi, Glass

Marin Alsop has kept music by Mahler prominent in her programming since taking the helm of the Baltimore Symphony. The just-announced 2010-11 season, Alsop's fourth as music director, is no exception.

The season straddles the 150th anniversary of Mahler's birth and centennial of his death, providing an extra hook for the inclusion of his Seventh Symphony, the unfinished Tenth, the discarded "Blumine" movement from Symphony No. 1 and "Das Lied von der Erde" (soloists TBA). Add to this several of Mahler's controversial re-touched scores by other composers: Beethoven's "Eroica" and "Leonore" Overture No. 3; Schumann's "Spring" Symphony and "Manfred" Overture; a suite Bach; even Smetana's "Bartered Bride" Overture.

Still more Mahler will turn up: Britten's arrangement of the second movement from the Third Symphony ("What the Wild Flowers Tell Me"). Mahler's wife, Alma, also will be remembered with the performance of some of her songs. Alsop will conduct most of the Mahler item. Cornelius Meister will be on the podium for the Smetana arrangement, Carlos Kalmar for the Britten.

Verdi's Requiem, which, coincidentally, has been quite popular lately around here (performances this month by the National Symphony and Concert Artists of Baltimore), will close the BSO's '10-'11 season. Alsop will conduct; the Washington Chorus (the NSO's superb partner in the Requiem) will participate; soloists TBA.

Baltimore native Philip Glass, whose music Alsop has long championed, will be back in the picture. Alsop will conduct his

multimedia work "Icarus at the Edge of Time," based on the children's book by physicist Brian Greene; this program also offers John Williams' "Star Wars" Suite.

Other notable contemporary fare on the '10-'11 lineup: John Adams' "Doctor Atomic" Symphony (based on the recent opera of that name); Roberto Sierra's Sinfonia No. 4 (conducted by Juanjo Mena); and a new work (not yet identified) by Osvaldo Golijov. Some compelling classics of the 20th century will be heard, notably Berg's Violin Concerto (soloist Baiba Skride, conductor Mario Venzago) and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra (conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier)

Alsop and the BSO will go operatic with a semi-staged version of Mozart's "The Magic Flute," featuring members of Washington National Opera's Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.

There are several bread-and-butter pieces spread throughout the season, among them Beethoven's Fifth (yet again, this time with Venzago conducting), Schubert's Fifth (Venzago), Rossini's "William Tell" Overture (Hasn Graff conducting) Dvorak's "New World" Symphony (yet again, with Alsop), Brahms' Symphony No. 2 (Meister) Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 (Graf); violin concertos by Mendelssohn (soloist Stefan Jackiw with Alsop) and Brahms (soloist Augustin Hadelich with Mena); piano concertos by Chopin (Ingrid Fliter playing No. 2 with Graf), Grieg (Orion Weiss with Tortelier), Rachmaninoff (Kirill Gerstein playing No. 1 with Alsop, Yuja Wang playing No. 2 with Mena) and Prokofiev (No. 3 with Simon Trpceski). Orchestra players stepping into the limelight include principal fluist Emily Skala for Corigliano's "Pied Piper Fantasy" with members of the OrchKids education program (Alsop conducting) and concertmaster Jonathan Carney for Burch's rarely heard Violin Concerto No. 2 (Meister conducting).

Speaking of Russian fare, there will be no less then three Shostakovich symphonies" Alsop conducts No. 5, Gunther Herbig No. 10 and teenage Ilyich Rivas No. 1. Alsop conducts Prokofiev's Symphony No. 6 and "Cinderella." Mena will lead Bruckner's Sixth (which Christoph Eschenbach has also programmed with the NSO next season).

The star-conscious will take particular note of two big-name artists, pianist Emanuel Ax performing Brahms' No. 1 with Alsop, and violinist Midori performing Shostakovich's No. 1 with conductor Gilbert Varga.

The opening gala features violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloist in Piazzolla's popular "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires." And Alsop will bring back another Charlie Chaplin film, "The Gold Rush," with the BSO performing the original score (the presentation of "City Lights" a couple years ago was terrific).

At first glance, it looks like a very attractive season, repertoire-wise, with a lively mix of tried and new (several selections have been identified as "musicians' picks" -- pieces the BSO players especially wanted to perform). Given the economic constraints of the day, the guest artist roster isn't bad (it's especially nice to see Venzago's name again). Although I'd welcome some other conductors and soloists here, it looks like we'll be in for some fine music-making.

It's also a season with one big change -- the Casual Concerts series of Saturday morning concerts at Meyerhoff has been canceled after 24 years (attendance has been too flat for too long, I'm told). This loss of six performances in Baltimore will be balanced by the addition of six concerts at Strathmore (conspiracy theorists long worried about the implications of the BSO's second home may well become re-caffeinated by this news).


Posted by Tim Smith at 1:27 PM | | Comments (6)


You just _know_ I'm going to say this: did they _have_ to do the Bruckner 6th in the same season as the NSO??? I mean, after doing the 3rd so beautifully last year, the 4th would have been a very logical next step! Eye-yeeeee!!!!

(And what do I have to do to get a performance of the Bruckner 5th around here? I mean, I'm fully confident that the brass can handle it... Grumble-grumble...)

Having complained, I now cheer: YAAAAAAAY!!!! Thank you!!! (And it's a "Musicians' Pick" -- thank you, folks!) And it's paired with the Rach 2 -- what an excellent combo.

And my official amateur opinion of the season: well-done! A good sprinkling of premieres, a nice dose of Mario V., a healthy infusion of Philip Glass (this should be a biannual ritual, really, in these parts!), oodles of Mahler (especially in unexpected ways!) -- heck, even a bit of Lutosławski!

I'm definitely encouraged. :-)

I'm all for program selections that are the musicians' picks. These are always interesting. Looking forward to that Berg Violin Concerto.

It sounds like a truly wonderul season, and I am definitely looking forward to it.

A comment to Doug Halfen; while you may find it repetitive, I think it's fascinating to hear the same work conducted by different maestros within a short time of each. When I lived in suburban Philadelphia, a few seasons ago, I was privy to hearing Maestro Eschenbach conduct Shostakovich 5 on a Saturday night in Philly, and then came to Baltimore the very next day to hear the same work conducted by Maestro Temirkanov. Two very different interpretations, yet both marvelous in their own right.. and absolutely fascinating to have heard them so close together! Having heard Eschenbach's rendition of Verdi's Requiem a few weeks ago merely makes me anticipate the performance at Meyerhoff even more!

While I do miss Maestro Temirkanov, my recent move to Baltimore has not been without it's rewards. I am extremely pleased with Maestra Alsop as his successor. She has brought, along with her unique perspectives, a great deal of vitality and talent to this truly charming city. And now that Eschenbach is in DC, it doesn't get much better for me.

Very exciting, I can't wait to sit down and pick my concerts for next season. I have 3 Dvorak New World Symphony CDs (don't know quite how THAT happened) but have never seen it live. So that's a must. I'm a sucker for anything Tchaikovsky, so that's a given. Grieg is a favorite too ...

Life is good, when these are the decisions one has to make!

To Lisa S.: You must understand, I'm not _really_ complaining. I'm just whining weakly. ;^)

(And I'm just a tad jaded, to state the obvious... %^)

Believe me, I'll be at _both_ concerts, probably several times (I'm that much of a Brucknerphile). And I totally agree that having the chance for multiple experiences of the same work is a good thing (to put a _new_ light on what I said yesterday, I will freely admit that the opportunity to hear two different orchestras perform this particular work so close in space & time _is_ an absolute rarity!!!). I'm only "complaining" that the public around here isn't exposed to enough _variety_ in Bruckner's output. (I definitely do _not_ subscribe to the erroneous theory that he simply repeated himself in each symphony; if I had my druthers, we'd hear 2-3 of his symphonies 'round these parts every season, but the musicians would beat me up.)

And, by the bye, I was at that Shostakovich 5th in Philly, too! That _was_ particularly excellent, and I hadn't heard the work in ages prior to the concert. (Regrettably, I didn't attend the Temirkanov concerts -- if I recall correctly, Tim had a very enthusiastic review of it. And while I absolutely _do_ miss Temirkanov, the BSO couldn't have possibly landed a more engaging, appealing successor than Maestra Alsop.)

To LJ Kirk - if it is not already among your 3, you ought to add the BSO's recent recording of the Dvorak "New World" to your collection. To my ears it was the finest version I have heard since the Giulini/Philharmonia recording from, I believe, the 1960's. And I've heard a LOT of versions.

To those not familiar with pianist Ingrid Fliter, run, do not walk, to get tickets to her concert. Her CD of Chopin Piano works for EMI was among the finest Chopin recitals I have heard in the last decade. She shares with the late Dinu Lipatti an apparently instinctive feel for rubato and how to employ it without compromising the structure of the music. Not to be missed!

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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