The unofficial beginning of this city's classical music season is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's first subscription concerts in Meyerhoff Hall. Things will start with a bang Wednesday and Thursday when music director David Zinman conducts Mendelssohn's fantasy-drenched "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and accompanies the celebrated Midori in Brahms' Violin Concerto.
Another anticipated BSO concert features the return (after a six-year absence) of one of America's greatest pianists, Horacio Gutierrez, in Brahms' mighty Piano Concerto No. 2 (Oct. 3-5) in a program conducted by Mario Venzago. Zinman returns in November for three all-Beethoven programs, the first of which will present the splendid German violinist, Christian Tetzlaff, in the composer's Violin Concerto (Nov. 7-9). The first program of 1997 will feature the BSO conducting debut of jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin (Jan. 3-4 and Jan. 7), who will not only lead the orchestra, but will also sing one of the cello parts in Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Cellos!
More traditional programming will prevail in performances of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto (Feb. 13-15) by the great Radu Lupu, who looks like a cross between the mad monk Rasputin and a Lubavitcher rabbi and who can always be depended on to reveal unsuspected depths in the most familiar music.
Another great pianist who likes to do things his way is Andras Schiff, who will appear with the BSO both as conductor and soloist (March 20-22) in an all-Bach program. The season concludes with Zinman's performances of Mahler's immense Symphony No. 5 (June 12-13).
One of the nice things about Baltimore is its proximity to the District of Columbia, where the Washington Performing Arts Society brings enough great orchestras for Baltimore music lovers to put to the test the BSO management's claim that our orchestra is "world class."
Among the renowned orchestras visiting the Kennedy Center and DAR Constitution Hall this season are: the Philadelphia Orchestra (Oct. 21 and Feb. 24), the Vienna Symphony (Oct. 27), the Czech Philharmonic (Nov. 18), the Boston Symphony (Dec. 14 and April 12) and the Los Angeles Philharmonic (May 3).
The BSO, of course, is not Baltimore's only orchestra. Two of the busiest are those made up of students of the Peabody Conservatory of Music: the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and the Peabody Concert Orchestra. The PSO's season begins Sept. 28 as music director Hajime Teri Murai leads Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 and Bloch's "Schelomo," with cello soloist Stephen Kates. Another highlight will be Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" (Dec. 10) conducted by Frederick Prausnitz in this distinguished musician's final concert before his retirement as head of the conservatory's conducting program. An even more gigantic Mahler work, Symphony No. 3, follows April 6, and the season's finale brings pianist Ann Schein in Brahms' Concerto No. 2 (April 30).
The city's other orchestras include the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, which begins its season Oct. 30 in Kraushaar Auditorium on the Goucher College campus with a program that features the gifted Ukrainian pianist Valentina Lisitsa.
What attracts audiences to orchestras is often the chance to hear a popular soloist. That makes the growing neglect of the solo recital in all but the largest American cities all the more mystifying. The recital most eagerly anticipated this season will be the one that pianist Evgeny Kissin is scheduled to give in Meyerhoff Hall on April 27. This young Russian genius was to have performed last January, but nature -- in the form of a blizzard -- intervened and the sold-out recital had to be canceled. This year's Shriver Hall Concert Series also offers a pride of pianists: Leon Fleisher (Oct. 6), Garrick Ohlsson (Feb. 9) and Murray Perahia (April 2). Shriver's annual Piatigorsky Memorial Concert will feature the young American cellist Evan Drachman, grandson of the legendary Russian-born cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, in whose honor the concerts have been endowed.
At Washington's Kennedy Center and DAR Constitution Hall, Washington Performing Arts Society offerings include: pianist Maurizio Pollini (Sept. 29); tenor Jerry Hadley and baritone Thomas Hampson (Oct. 19); guitarist Christopher Parkening (Nov. 10); and pianists Vladimir Ashkenazy (March 8) and Alfred Brendel (April 20).