More `fest' for summer's MusicFest

Music: The BSO goes after the happy-hour crowd with a series that moves outside and adds food and drink and pop bands.

June 10, 2000|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The Baltimore Symphony has cooked up an expanded version of its annual Summer MusicFest. For the first time, outdoor activities will be held before each concert, not just afterward.

"We're trying to make this a festival in the true sense of the word," says Greg Tucker, the BSO's director of public relations and community affairs. "There will be music, dancing, food and fun."

With an eye toward grabbing the downtown, happy hour-seeking office crowd and other customers, the festival, which runs June 28-July 14, will crank up at 5:30 p.m. on concert nights at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Refreshments from area restaurants, libations from the Capitol City Brewing Company (which is donating proceeds back to the BSO) and performances by such local bands as Tropicombo and the Blue Moon Big Band will take place on a blocked-off portion of Preston Street in front of the hall.

Following each symphony program, the outdoor party will resume. A large tent will be in place throughout the festival, in case the weather doesn't cooperate.

Another new feature for 2000 is Swiss-born Mario Venzago, artistic director of Summer MusicFest, who succeeds Pinchas Zukerman. Venzago, chief conductor of the Basel Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland and the Euskadi National Orchestra in Spain, has devised loose themes for the festival's five BSO concerts:

"Mediterranean Breezes" will waft over Meyerhoff at 7:30 p.m. June 28 during a program that includes Mendelssohn's "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage"; Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun"; Ravel's Piano Concerto (Bruno Canino as soloist); and selections from Mozart's "Idomeneo."

Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" provides the hook for a "Musical Magic" program at 7:30 p.m. June 30, which also offers a Bach orchestral suite and Liszt's "Totentanz" (with pianist Eduardus Halim). This concert will be preceded not just by the street fest, but by chamber music inside Meyerhoff at 6:30 p.m., when Halim joins members of the BSO in a program of Chopin and Ravel.

For "A Night in Old Vienna" at 7:30 p.m. July 7, Venzago has rounded up popular pieces by Johann Strauss and Fritz Kreisler (with violinist Benjamin Schmid), along with such non-Viennese treats as Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld" Overture, and Ravel's "Bolero."

"Devilish Delights" will mix Liszt's "Mephisto Waltz" and Strauss' "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" with a violin concerto by Paganini. The concerto will feature Leonidas Kavakos, who also will play works by Saint-Saens and Ravel. It's at 7:30 p.m. July 12.

Wrapping up the series will be "Symphonic Voyages," which will include visits to ancient Babylon (the Overture to Rossini's "Semiramide"); Prague (Mozart's Symphony No. 38); and Spain (Ravel's "Rapsodie espagnole").A German stop is also on the schedule - Schumann's Cello Concerto with Steven Isserlis as soloist. This concert is at 7:30 p.m. July 14, preceded at 6:30 p.m. by Schumann's Piano Quintet played by Kavakos, Isserlis, Halim and BSO members.

Tickets are $10 to $25; admission to chamber music events is included. Call 410-783-8000.

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