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March 1, 2011

Baltimore Symphony to showcase 'revolutionary women' during 2011-12 season

"Revolutionary women," including Joan of Arc and Harriet Tubman, will be showcased during the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2011-2012 season, which also packs in music by some relatively revolutionary men, too.

BSO music director Marin Alsop, something of a revolutionary herself in a profession still dominated by males, will lead the orchestra in performances of Arthur Honegger’s rarely encountered 1935 oratorio “Jeanne d’Arc au Boucher” (“Joan of Arc at the Stake”) in November.

“The impetus for this is that 2012 is thought to be the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc,” Alsop said. “She fascinates me in a number of ways. It seemed to be the perfect time to program the Honegger work, which is such a cool piece.”

The oratorio, which will involve the Morgan State University Choir, Peabody-Hopkins Chorus and Peabody Children’s Chorus, will also be presented at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Later in the season, the French visionary will again receive attention in a program that combines a showing of Carl Dreyer’s highly valued 1928 silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” with the performance of a contemporary score by Richard Einhorn, “Voices of Light.”

That program will be featured on the BSO’s visit to Oregon and California in March 2012, the orchestra’s first domestic tour since 2000. The trip will include a three-day residency at the University of California, Berkeley.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to promote the terrific orchestra we have,” Alsop said, “and to be ambassadors of our region to another part of the U.S.”

With Joan of Arc as a centerpiece for the season, “I then tried to build my programs from there, focusing not just on women’s issues, but issues of oppression and justice,” Alsop said, “and focusing on women in roles as creators or soloists.”

The struggles and aspirations of Harriet Tubman inspired “Chuphshah! Harriet's Drive to Canaan,” an orchestral work by Baltimore-based composer James Lee III that will receive its world premiere in September.

Next season will also see the BSO’s first performance of a 1990 work by Scottish composer James MacMillan, “The Confession of Isobel Gowdie,” which refers to a 17th-century Scottish woman who admitted to being a witch and was apparently burned at the stake (something of a subtext for the season).

Music composed by women is on the lineup, including Jennifer Higdon's 2010 Grammy Award-winning Percussion Concerto and a piece that could serve as the season’s motto: Joan Tower's “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.”

Alsop will tackle several hefty works from the standard repertoire, including

Mahler's Symphony No. 2, which will open the season. She'll be on the podium for Prokofiev's Fifth, Tchaikovsky's Fifth and Sixth ("Pathetique") and Shostakovich's Seventh ("Leningrad"), as well as such evergreens as Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra," Ravel's "Bolero" and Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."

Speaking of standards, Beethoven's Ninth will be back yet again, conducted by Mario Venzago on a program with Bruckner's "Te Deum." Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, which was played just a few weeks ago on a BSO program by Yuja Wang, will be back, too, this time with Andre Watts as soloist.

Other popular pieces resurfacing include Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet," Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite, Copland's "Appalachian Spring," Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and "La Mer," Gershwin's "An American in Paris."

Balancing that hit parade will be such items as Symphony No. 4 ("From Mission San Juan Bautista") by Baltimore-based Kevin Puts.

Several names familiar to BSO audiences will be on the guest roster: violinists Hilary Hahn (for the annual gala), Itzhak Perlman (he'll conduct, too), Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; pianist Leon Fleisher (in Ravel's Concerto for Left Hand); conductors Gunther Herbig, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Jun Markl, Vasily Petrenko, Louis Langree. Among those making their BSO debuts next season will be pianist Olga Kern.

The BSO SuperPops season finds principal pops conductor Jack Everly leading programs devoted to, among other things, the music of Gershwin, Elton John (with vocalist Michael Cavanaugh),and the team of Schonberg-Boublil responsible for "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon."

The BSO's summer season for 2010 will offer a Beatles tribute band, music of John Williams and more Gershwin.

One thing missing from next season is the Holiday Spectacular with its popular tap-dancing Santas.

“We decided to take a break after six years,” said BSO president and CEO Paul Meecham. “We just weren’t getting the level of attendance we needed.”

Instead, the orchestra will present “Holiday Cirque de la Symphonie,” a version of the program with aerialists and jugglers that was a hit for the BSO last year.


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:28 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: BSO, Clef Notes, Marin Alsop


Eh...... This next season is clearly a bit of a step _backward_ to me, especially compared with the current season (which was a "great leap forward" from the '09/'10 season, honestly). The only Mahler is the 2nd, correct? While that's fine, memories of Temirkanov's titanic performances in June, '06, are quite fresh in my mind -- and didn't she cancel the 6th a few seasons ago due to budget concerns? If they now have the budget to do the 2nd.......

And WHY, oh WHY, the Shosty 7th??? That's just about my least-favourite thing by him, and it's sooooooo bloody long... :facepalm:

(Drive me REALLY crazy, Marin, and program either the 2nd, 3rd, or 12th next season! No, I am NOT being serious. Do the 4th or the 11th, for heaven's sake, or especially the 8th..... I BEG you!!!)

Venzago leading Bruckner's "Te Deum" in concert with the Beethoven 9th is an intriguing matchup, but the _real_ stroke of genius would have been Bruckner's 9th. However, the pairing is still VERY sensible! (And as much as I whine about Beethoven's 9th being beaten to death, folks can truly get a delicious "choral fill" with both pieces in this concert. ;^)

Always a pleasure to see Ms. Weilerstein perform (this time with the Dvořák warhorse), but the Maestra follows that with the Tchai 6th -- didn't she just do that a few seasons ago?????

Tortelier doing Sibelius' 5th is promising, too (that's the ONLY Sibelius ALL SEASON???), and we at least get Glass' LIFE again (just in time for the composer's birthday -- _again_ -- will someone local do the timpani or piano concertos, fer cryin' out loud?!!!), but the vast majority of the season is "littered" with overplayed chestnuts.

I'm done ranting now -- but as I had higher hopes, the news was a bit of a disappointment, overall.

When I read that the BSO will be producing Richard Einhorn's, “Voices of Light” (with the movie, "The Passion of Joan of Arc"), I e-mailed Richard and asked him if he'd be attending. He said (and said that I could quote him), "Oh, you bet I'll be there! Marin and Joan are an absolutely unforgettable combination. She performed it with National Symphony at Kennedy Center, also at Cabrillo Festival and in Denver w/ Colorado Symphony."

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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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