Among classical music lovers, schedule raises hopes for months of great listening


September 06, 1992|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

Anticipation is the spice in the music season. No matter how a season eventually turns out, the certainty of hope is always a feature of the future. This listener can't be sure how good concerts will actually be; all he knows is that he wants to be there when the much-talked about Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov makes his debut conducting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; when the Baltimore Opera presents a rarely performed Verdi masterpiece like "Nabucco"; when a superb, musically knowledgeable opera director such as the Peabody Conservatory's Roger Brunyate turns to a thrice-familiar masterpiece such as Mozart's "The Magic Flute"; and when the dangerously and excitingly spontaneous pianist Elizabeth Leonskaja returns to Shriver Hall. What follows, therefore, are a few of the highlights that one listener awaits with particular expectation.

This is the year that the BSO made a substantial breakthrough in attracting well-known guest conductors. The biggest of them is, of course, Temirkanov (Dec. 18, 19 and 20), whose scheduled appearance here in the 1988-1989 season was postponed because of the BSO strike. There are occasions when the music director of his country's greatest orchestra (the St. Petersburg Philharmonic) conducts like a drunken sailor on shore leave, but this program of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" should be perfect for him.

The second most prestigious of the BSO's guest conductors is Leonard Slatkin (Jan. 7, 8 and 9), the music director of the St. Louis Symphony. Like Andre Previn, who also grew up in Los Angeles, Slatkin is a marvelous conductor of 20th century British music, and his program includes Vaughan Williams' "A Sea Symphony." Other conductors worth hearing are George Cleve (April, 28, 29, 30 and May 1) in an all-Mozart program; Gunther Herbig, who can make even a worn-out classic like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony seem fresh (May 13, 14 and 15); and, of course, our own David Zinman, who is opening and closing the season with two blockbusters -- Mahler's Symphony No. 9 (Sept. 17, 18 and 19) and Verdi's Requiem (June 10 and 11).

Big-name soloists are always easier to book than conductors of comparable stature, and the most famous of the former is cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who will play three concertos -- a transcription of the Bartok Viola Concerto, Bloch's "Schelomo" and Stephen Albert's Cello Concerto -- on a single program (March 4 and 5). Other interesting soloists include two great pianists -- the Hungarian pianist Zoltan Kocsis in Bartok's Concerto No. 3 (Oct. 29, 30 and 31) and the Brazilian Nelson Freire in Chopin's Concerto No. 2 (April 1 and 2) -- and several gifted young violinists: Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg playing Barber (Dec. 3 and 4); Shlomo Mintz in Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy" (Oct. 1 and 2); Cho-Liang Lin in the Beethoven Concerto; and Maxim Vengerov in the Mendelssohn Concerto (Nov. 20, 21 and 22).

But not all the best soloists will be playing with the

BSO. The Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and its music director Anne Harrigan will collaborate this season with two genuinely great musicians who just happen to be Baltimoreans: Leon Fleisher (Nov. 4), who will play one of the pieces -- Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 4 -- on which he long ago established a personal patent; and BSO principal oboist Joseph Turner -- who does for that sensual instrument what Marilyn Monroe did for the pinup -- will play the Vaughan Williams concerto.

Big news: 'Nabucco'

The big news in Baltimore's opera world is the Baltimore Opera Company's production of "Nabucco" (April 24, 28, 30 and May 2), the 1842 opera that made Verdi's reputation with the Cecil B. DeMille-like raw energy and violence with which the composer ++ treated his Biblical subject. The other operas on the BOC roster are Puccini's "Turandot" (Oct. 17, 21, 23 and 25) and Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore" (March 27, 31, April 2 and April 4).

Passing from opera -- music's grandest genre -- to recitals and chamber music -- its most intimate form -- the Shriver Hall Series will be presenting its best series in years. It begins with that sizzling fiddler Elmar Oliveira (Oct. 3) and closes with a concert by the elegant young British cellist Steven Isserlis (April 4). Other highlights include a recital by the great young baritone Thomas Hampson (Dec. 12), an appearance by the chamber group Tashi (Feb. 7), and pianist Elizabeth Leonskaja (March 13).

More great chamber music can be heard at Howard County's Candlelight Concerts. Just a few of the highlights in this 12-concert series are an appearance by the Waverly Consort in music from the time of Columbus (Oct. 17); the Emerson String Quartet (Jan. 29); the pianist Richard Goode (Jan. 29); and the Kalichstein-Robinson-Laredo trio (April 20).

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