Concert Artists of Baltimore heading back downtown for 25th season
Concert Artists of Baltimore, an organization that comprises a professional chorus and orchestra, opens its silver anniversary season on Sunday. That's newsworthy enough.
"I can't really take credit for it," says founding artistic director Edward Polochick. "I just try to persuade people to keep on going forward with it."
The organization remains true to its original purpose.
"Why not be able to explore the full range of a composer's work? All of the greats wrote vocal and instrumental music," Polochick says. "Having our own chorus gives the chance to do much more."
Adding interest to the 25th anniversary is a homecoming for the ensemble, which is heading back downtown, where it all started.
Concert Artists played its first season at Westminster Hall, then had a few years at Peabody (Polochick is a longtime faculty member at the conservatory), then several more at what is now called Notre Dame of Maryland University.
But for nearly a decade, the principal concerts have been held beyond the Beltway, at the acoustically splendid Gordon Center in Owings Mills. (Concert Artists has long kept one foot back in Baltimore with a chamber series at the Engineers Club in Mount Vernon.)
"I don't know why people were so reluctant to go to the Gordon Center," Polochick says. "But we lost a lot of ground going out there. It just didn't work for us."
So Concert Artists, which has a budget of around $400,000, returns to its geographic roots for its 25th season, opening Sunday in ...
In addition to Britten's "Hymn to St. Cecilia" and Prokofiev's "Classical" Symphony, there will be two keyboard-centric pieces with an impressive lineup of soloists: Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson Fleisher in Mozart's Concerto for Two Pianos; Ann Schein in Beethoven's Choral Fantasy.
The rest of the season looks enticing as well. A January concert offers works for string orchestra by Tchaikovsky and Arensky, as well as Brahms' Double Concerto with violinist Josė Miguel Cueto, who has been the concertmaster with the ensemble from the beginning, and cellist Gita Ladd). In March, a program will explore the life and works, vocal and instrumental, of Mozart.
In May, Concert Artists moves a few blocks north to perform Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" and Orff's "Carmina Burana" at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric Opera House, joined by the Peabody Concert Orchestra and Peabody Hopkins Chorus. (The orchestral component of Concert Artists will also play for a Lyric Opera Baltimore production this season.)
Maintaining a choral/orchestral force "hasn't been easy," Polochick says. "We've been through a lot of the trials and tribulations it takes to keep a group around this long. But we have been mostly in the black, and we have always paid our musicians on time."
Given the high profile of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, it is all the more remarkable that Concert Artists (and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, which launched a few years earlier) have managed to hang on. It will be interesting to see how things turn out with Concert Artists based firmly in downtown Baltimore.
One thing likely to remain the same is the highly energized music-making, a trait easily attributable to Polochick's unusually dynamic conducting. He has a way of not only drawing out the best in musicians, but also drawing listeners into the experience. It's a quality that could keep Concert Artists going for many more years.
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