BSO finds new media partner Music: WETA-FM in Shirlington, Va., will produce and distribute the symphony's 'Casual Concert' series.

August 11, 1998|By Judith Green | Judith Green,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has a new media partner for its radio broadcast series: WETA-FM in Shirlington, Va.

The BSO has been looking for a new producer-distributor for its "Casual Concerts" broadcast series since last fall, when WJHU-FM in Baltimore dropped the vestiges of its classical music programming and became an all news and jazz station.

At that time, WJHU agreed to complete its contract to produce the series, but it moved the broadcast to 6 a.m. Sundays. WBJC-FM, which also carries the concerts, will continue to do so next season.

Now entering its 13th season, the series originally was produced by WETA, then taken on by WJHU when the station was established 11 years ago as a National Public Radio affiliate based at Johns Hopkins University.

The newly signed contract between the BSO and WETA transfers distribution rights to Public Radio International, the alternative nonprofit radio producer that provides cultural and educational programming to public and commercial broadcast outlets.

The deal also marks WETA's return to national programming, which had lapsed under previous management.

WETA's new vice president and general manager, Arthur Cohen, comes to the station from a year at WNYC-FM, an NPR affiliate in New York. Before that, he was for six years senior programmer at Minnesota Public Radio, one of the largest producers of cultural programming in the United States.

"It's a mission thing more than anything else," he said of the BSO concerts. "We believe in programming that reflects what's going on in our region."

The BSO series consists of 12 programs in a "Casual Concert" format, all from the 1997-1998 season. Former music director David Zinman is featured conductor and co-host with Lisa Simeone.

The series will include the "Zinman Farewell" concert of June 2, featuring Beethoven's "Triple Concerto," and Zinman's real farewell as he led Bruckner's Symphony No. 8, June 11-13.

Guest artists will be pianists Jeffrey Kahane, Helene Grimaud, Radu Lupu and Mitsuko Uchida; violinists Cho-Liang Lin, Gil Shaham and Baltimore teen virtuoso Hilary Hahn; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; and percussionist Evelyn Glennie, playing a work by Christopher Rouse commissioned for her by the BSO and three other orchestras.

The series will begin in October. It is carried by about 160 stations, said Cohen, who expects most to renew their commitment. It is among radio's most popular classical music offerings, thanks to its non-stuffy format and Zinman's easy on-air style, according to industry insiders.

Pub Date: 8/11/98

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