Big deals: BSO tour, Bruckner Program: The orchestra hopes to repeat its earlier successes abroad, and Zinman's performances of Bruckner will be his last ones as director

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September 21, 1997|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The two events that loom the largest on the classical music horizon this season concern the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

In November, music director David Zinman takes the orchestra on the third international tour of his 13-year tenure in Baltimore -- a two-week visit to Japan in which the BSO hopes to reprise the success it enjoyed three years ago on its first trip to the Far East.

The second is Zinman's performances of Bruckner's Symphony No. 8 next June in the final subscription concerts of the season. These will also be Zinman's final concerts as the BSO's music director. There has been much speculation about who will succeed him, but there is no official word yet. Every guest conductor who appears with the orchestra is a potential candidate, and that makes this year's roster of guest conductors especially interesting.

The most intriguing of all may be the German-born Gunther Herbig, who will conduct the orchestra this Thursday, Friday and Saturday in an all-Beethoven program. Herbig always conducts superb Beethoven, and doubtless this concert will be no exception. He will be joined in a performance of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto by the much-admired -- particularly by other pianists -- Brazilian Nelson Freire.

Listeners betting in the music-director sweepstakes would also be wise to investigate the Mozart-Mendelssohn program performed by English conductor Jeffrey Tate Jan. 15-17. Tate may not have the physical stamina to be the music director of an American orchestra -- he suffers from a severe spinal condition -- but he is a thoughtful, elegant interpreter, and several BSO insiders insist that Tate is a real possibility to follow Zinman.

Anyone interested in what the future of Zinman, rather than that of the BSO, holds should get to the Kennedy Center Jan. 24 to hear him conduct his "other" orchestra -- Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra -- which Zinman is leading on a tour of the United States.

As the Baltimore Symphony ends one era, Washington's National Symphony enters another at the Kennedy Center. In October the symphony and its music director, Leonard Slatkin, return to celebrate the reopening of the the center's Concert Hall, which was completely gutted and reconstructed last year. Two gala concerts will feature soprano Kathleen Battle (Oct. 24) and pianist Van Cliburn (Oct. 25).

Turning from symphonic to operatic music, the Baltimore Opera Company will be making its first venture in more than a decade into the works of Richard Wagner when it concludes its season at the end of April and the beginning of May with several performances of "The Flying Dutchman," the earliest of the composer's masterpieces. The BOC's season opens Oct. 16 with a much greater work by Wagner's greatest rival, Verdi's "Falstaff," in which the great Italian, who was in his 80s when he completed it, summed up the mastery of a lifetime.

The Washington Opera will enter its second season under the artistic leadership of superstar tenor Placido Domingo. It will continue to investigate the relatively unexplored repertory of zarzuela -- a form of Spanish musical theater that corresponds to Viennese operetta -- with a production of Amadeo Vives' "Dona Francisquita," which opens at the Kennedy Center Opera House Jan. 15. It will also present the East Coast premiere of Conrad Susa's new opera, "The Dangerous Liaisons," which opens March 12 and will be the company's final production this season.

Those who appreciate instrumental and chamber music will be glad to know that the Shriver Hall Concert Series continues to show signs of renewed vitality with its second strong season in a row. The series opens Sept. 28 with a joint recital by guitarist Eliot Fisk and flutist Paula Robison and features such highlights as the Baltimore debut of the great Croatian pianist Dubravka Tomsic (Oct. 26), a recital by superstar basso James Morris (Nov. 15), and one by the popular young American violinist Joshua Bell (April 5).

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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