Temirkanov knows what he likes - and schedules it

BSO's next season features Russian composers, choral music and pieces

new to Baltimore.

February 27, 2000|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Music Critic

Look for more choral music, many romantic and late romantic composers, and a number of rising stars in the Baltimore Symphony's 2000-2001 concert season.

Among the more striking offerings in the season (which is being announced today) is a concert rendition of the Tchaikovsky opera "Iolanta"; violinist Midori performing Tchaikovsky's violin concerto; an all-Sibelius program with violinist Viktor Tretyakov; the Mozart "Requiem"; and Prokofiev's "Ivan the Terrible" (which was written for the famed Sergei Eisenstein film).

In addition to Midori and Tretyakov, guest soloists with the symphony will include pianists Yefim Bronfman (playing the third Beethoven concerto), Jean-Yves Thibaudet (playing the first Liszt concerto), Ivan Moravec (playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20), and Peabody alumnus Awadagin Pratt (playing the Saint-Saens fourth concerto).

Perhaps the season's most unusual pairing will be violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Mark O'Connor, who will be performing O'Connor's Double Concerto for Two Violins.

Music director Yuri Temirkanov will be conducting 12 programs during the season, eight in the Celebrity Series and four in the lighter Favorites Series. In addition to the Tchaikovsky opera, the Mozart "Requiem," and "Ivan," Temirkanov will lead the orchestra in performances of the Sibelius Symphony No. 2, the Shostakovich "Leningrad" Symphony, the Brahms Symphony No. 2, Stravinsky's "Petrouchka," the Dvorak Symphony No. 8 and the Mahler Symphony No. 1.

"It's difficult for me to answer the question, 'Why did you choose this particular work?'." said Temirkanov earlier this month. "In this case, it's probably the best music -- according to me, my tastes."

He laughed, and added, "Another conductor would probably choose some different things. And he would be right."

Although the season offers hefty portions of Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Mozart, it's also quite heavy on Russian fare, with five works by Tchaikovsky scheduled, as well as pieces by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Some pieces, such as "Iolanta" and "Ivan the Terrible," Temirkanov almost felt compelled to include. "Not because it's Russian music, but simply because it's very important and very good music that has never been performed here," he said.

"Iolanta" stands out in that regard. Whereas many operas are full of overwrought drama and violent emotions, "Iolanta" -- which is about a blind princess whose sight is restored after she's courted by a stranger -- offers a much gentler perspective. "It's a beautiful fairy tale, and beautiful music," Temirkanov said. "And they've never heard it in Baltimore."

Temirkanov offers a similar reason for the amount of choral music slated for next season. "I looked at the previous programs, and I know that -- according to me -- there weren't enough works for the voice. ... Choral works, and works for the voice, are wonderful music. It's like an ornament to the program."

There will also be a nod to the new century in the first concerts of January 2001. In addition to the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with Midori and Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances," Temirkanov will direct the orchestra in the opening fanfare from Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra," which most people know as the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"It's not my idea, I can tell you," said Temirkanov. "But they asked, because it's the beginning of the new century. ... I agreed, but it's not my idea.

"I am not so inventive."

Guest conductors

While much of the season reflects the music director's tastes and goals, Temirkanov admitted he came to the season's programming "rather late," and said that a number of the guest conductors had already been engaged before he got involved.

Among the guest conductors slated for the season are Bobby McFerrin, who will be doing an all-Bach evening as well as a program of Bernstein and Bizet; Gunther Herbig, who will conduct Salerno-Sonnenberg and O'Connor; and David Zinman, who will return to Baltimore to direct the Haydn cello concerto (with Alisa Weilerstein) and Bruckner's Ninth.

"I asked [the orchestra's administration] to give me the list of conductors who have conducted here in the last four or five years," Temirkanov said. "I would like to know the musicians' opinion about all these conductors, because I think they very seldom make a mistake, the orchestra."

Temirkanov also looked to the soloists for suggestions when choosing concertos. "I usually ask for him to give me some choices, because [the choice] depends what's in the second half, obviously," he explained. "Maybe it's wonderful, but for me it would be strange to have Chopin and Tchaikovsky together.

"Once I saw the poster for a very, very famous conductor. He was conducting Tchaikovsky's Sixth, and the second half was Gershwin's 'An American in Paris.' I was really very surprised to see that. For me, there are some incompatible things."

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