BSO schedules a 12-city tour in Japan, Taiwan

February 25, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

Annapolis -- In what should prove to be a major boost to its international reputation, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will tour Asia for the first time this fall, giving 16 concerts in 12 cities.

In making the announcement yesterday with the BSO, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said the orchestra will depart on Oct. 25 and return Nov. 18, playing in Japan and Taiwan -- two of the biggest markets for classical music in the world.

The concerts will "help to remind our friends in Asia that Maryland is a great place to do business," said Schaefer, who will accompany the orchestra for part of the tour. The governor will be on a trade mission with local business leaders. He'll also attend a symposium for Japan's pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries presented by the medical school of the Johns Hopkins University.

"While the BSO calls attention to our cultural attributes, we will be meeting with government and business leaders to promote trade and investment opportunities," said Schaefer, adding that the $250,000 he will request from the General Assembly to help )) pay for the BSO's tour "will reap ten times that money in benefits the state will receive."

The orchestra will be conducted on tour by its music director, David Zinman. It will be accompanied by two soloists -- cellist Yo-Yo Ma, perhaps the world's pre-eminent string player, and Anne Akiko Meyers, a young California-born violinist who has toured Japan previously and whose records are popular there.

It is important for the orchestra to perform in the Far East because of the intense interest there in western classical music, especially in the major cities of Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan, said BSO executive director John Gidwitz.

He said that all Japanese schoolchildren learn to read music, and this interest continues into adulthood. In Tokyo alone, for example, there are 11 full-time professional orchestras.

Because of this appetite for classical music -- and the willingness to pay for records and concerts -- an Asian tour has become one of the genuine signifying marks of a major American orchestra.

The costs of the tour -- approximately $2 million -- will be covered mostly by concert fees and by contributions from businesses, charitable foundations and the state. All but a little less than $500,000 -- including the $250,000 promised by Schaefer from the state -- has been guaranteed.

Pointing out that a proposed 1991 Asia tour was quietly canceled when it seemed there would be difficulty in funding it without incurring a deficit, Gidwitz and BSO board president Calman J. Zamoiski said they are confident expenses will be covered completely by fees and contributions.

"We do not expect this to have any effect on the [orchestra's] budget," said Zamoiski.

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