The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra unveiled a new look yesterday when it announced its programs, soloists and guest conductors for the 1996-1997 season and for the Summer MusicFest Series this July and August.
Pinchas Zukerman and Marvin Hamlisch, respectively the newly appointed music directors of the Summer MusicFest and the SuperPops series, will conduct their first concerts. Several relatively unfamiliar faces, particularly that of Swiss conductor Mario Venzago, and some brand new ones will be very familiar to BSO audiences by next season's end. Several internationally celebrated musicians, such as the pianists Andras Schiff, Horacio Gutierrez and Radu Lupu, will make long-awaited reappearances. And Barry Tuckwell will finally make a BSO debut after almost 40 years of being famous as the world's greatest French horn player.
BSO music director David Zinman will begin the 1996-1997 season in a star-studded fashion with performances of Brahms' Violin Concerto (in which the celebrated Midori will be the soloist) and Mendelssohn's incidental music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (in which the actress Claire Bloom will narrate Shakespeare's text).
Three of the most notable appearances by soloists next season include those of pianists Gutierrez, Lupu and Schiff. Gutierrez (Oct. 3, Oct. 4 and Oct. 5) and Lupu (Feb. 13, Feb. 14 and Feb. 15) will divide up the Brahms Concertos Nos. 1 (Lupu) and 2 (Gutierrez); Schiff, who has had to cancel previously scheduled BSO appearances in Brahms, will conduct as well as play the piano in three all-Bach concerts (March 20, March 21 and March 22) that celebrate the great composer's birthday.
A visitor who's been absent even longer than the three aforementioned pianists is Byron Janis, who will join guest conductor Ivan Fischer in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 (Oct. 10, Oct. 11 and Oct. 12).
Janis enjoyed one of the world's great pianistic careers until the late 1960s, when crippling arthritis gradually forced him to abandon performing in public. But Janis has undergone therapy that has left him feeling stronger and, like Baltimore's Leon Fleisher, he apparently has decided to resume performing in public on a limited scale.
Soloists making Baltimore debuts include the German violinist Christian Tetzlaff, who will put his considerable intellectual powers to good use in Beethoven's Violin Concerto (Nov. 7, Nov. 8 and Nov. 9), and the Russian firebrand Eldar Nebolsin, who can be expected to perform Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto March 15, 15 and 16) with beauty of tone and plenty of bravura.
Among the season's guest conductors are such familiar figures as Sergiu Comissiona (April 3, April 4 and April 5) and Yuri Temirkanov (March 14, March 15 and March 16) and such relatively unfamiliar ones as Bobby McFerrin and Mario Venzago. McFerrin is, of course, one of the world's great jazz vocalists, but he is also a respected, all-around musician, as his program of Wagner, Faure, Vivaldi and Bizet (Jan. 5, Jan. 6 and Jan. 7) should demonstrate. Venzago appeared here a few seasons back, and the Swiss conductor made so fine an impression that the orchestra has re-engaged him twice for the 1996-1997 season (Oct. 3-5 and Oct. 18-30).
Even more remarkably, Venzago will lead four of this summer's MusicFest series. Zukerman, the BSO's new summer music director, will conduct and play the violin at the first concert (July 12) -- Zukerman does not assume full MusicFest conducting duties until the summer of 1997. Venzago will lead all of the remaining concerts (July 17, July 26, July 31 and Aug. 2).
A guest conductor who leads six different programs in less than six months certainly appears to be more than merely a guest. Better stay tuned.