A tasty repast, surprises on the side

Former BSO leaders Zinman and Comissiona will return for concerts during Termirkanov's second full season.

Classical Music

January 14, 2001|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,Sun Music Critic

You might say that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will have the best of three worlds come the 2001-2002 season.

Music director Yuri Temirkanov, who will continue putting his distinctive stamp on the ensemble during 13 subscription programs, has picked lots of meat-and-potatoes favorites off the German and Russian shelves, as well as a few surprises.

Immediate past music director David Zinman will return to lead the kind of off-the-beaten-path fare that made his tenure so noteworthy. And Zinman's predecessor, Sergiu Comissiona, will also return, conducting the kind of elegant and prismatic music that was one of his specialties with the BSO.

Further bringing interest to Temirkanov's second full season at the helm will be a classy roster of guest artists, headed by sensational pianist Evgeny Kissin in his BSO debut performing Brahms' B-flat major Concerto; a new concert series aimed at drawing in the boomer crowd, with martini bars and jazz in the lobby; and a visit to Meyerhoff Symphony Hall by the music director's other orchestra, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

While the Temirkanov years are shaping up to be rather conservative ones, musically speaking, next season is not without its novelty factor. On one Temirkanov program, for example, Dvorak's well-worn "New World" Symphony will be balanced by Shostakovich's infrequently encountered "From Jewish Folk Poetry" for three vocalists and orchestra.

And although Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" is hardly unusual fare, it's not the sort of piece that comes instantly to mind when thinking of Temirkanov. Its dramatic and coloristic elements, however, are certainly right up his musical alley. His choice of a work to go with that surefire, hedonistic cantata may seem even more unlikely for this Russian conductor -- Samuel Barber's masterpiece of quintessentially American nostalgia, "Knoxville: Summer of 1915," with soprano Janice Chandler.

As is the case this season, Temirkanov will dig into a fair amount of Beethoven ("Eroica" Symphony, Piano Concerto No. 1 with Elisso Virsaladze) and Brahms (Violin Concerto with Pamela Frank, a reprise of Symphony No. 2 from the 2000-2001 season).

Mozart, too, will be addressed -- the season-opening program includes the "Marriage of Figaro" Overture and Piano Concerto No. 14. Emanuel Ax will be the soloist in the latter, as well as in Strauss' "Burleske." Ravel's "La Valse" completes this bill.

The music director will also continue what has become a cycle of Mahler symphonies. He began his tenure with the Second a year ago, added the First this season, and will conclude 2001-2002 with the Third. Nancy Maultsby, one of the finest mezzo-sopranos around, will be the soloist, joined by the women of the Baltimore Symphony Chorus.

Russian works

As for Russian repertoire, Temirkanov has rounded up several of the usual suspects -- Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony, Stravinksy's "Firebird" Suite and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." He'll also conduct Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 2, with the extraordinary Natalia Gutman as soloist, and Rachmaninoff's ever-popular Piano Concerto No. 2, with the vibrant Andre Watts. (He'll also be the soloist in Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Temirkanov.)

While one Rachmaninoff piano concerto would normally suffice for a season, even two won't be enough for this one. No. 3 will be trotted out with exceptional Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, conducted by Yakov Kreizberg, music director of the Komische Oper in Berlin; the less-traveled No. 1 will also be performed, with Russian pianist Mikhail Rudy making his BSO debut, Temirkanov conducting.

Another early Rachmaninoff work that rarely gets a hearing these days, his Symphony No. 1 from 1895, will be conducted by Dmitri Kitaenko, former music director of the Moscow Philharmonic. This program also offers the even rarer Symphony No. 1 from 1900 by Scriabin, an ambitious work in praise of art that ends with a choral movement.

Added to the Russian component of the 2001-2002 is Tchaikovsky's "Rococo Variations," with the young Korean cellist Han-Na Chang as soloist. This work will be the centerpiece of Comissiona's program, which also lists Kodaly's "Dances of Galanta" and Saint-Saens' "Organ" Symphony.

Zinman's guest stint will include "Rapture" by dynamic American composer Christopher Rouse, long championed by Zinman and the BSO. Complementing that selection will be a vivid work by Elgar, underappreciated in this country -- "Falstaff," a "symphonic study" on Shakespeare's comedy. The remarkable violinist Joshua Bell will take the spotlight in this program with a concerto not yet determined.

Other noted guest conductors joining the BSO next season:

n The much-recorded Sir Neville Marriner, artistic director of England's Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, leading Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony, Dvorak's Violin Concerto (with Elisabeth Batiashvili) and Bruckner's second attempt at a symphony, which he called No. 0.

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