Fire, water and rhapsodies for BSO in 2002-03

Soloists to come: Violist Yuri Bashmet, violinist Pamela Frank, guitarist Manuel Barrueco, saxophonist Branford Marsalis and violinist Vadim Repin.

Classical Music

February 24, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,Sun Music Critic

There's an unmistakable Russian tint to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2002-2003 season -- 17 works by 11 Russian composers. But that's only part of the picture.

Also providing color is a welcome sampling of pieces by contemporary composers, along with works by rather infrequently encountered masters of the past (more than a dozen pieces will get their first BSO performances). Putting the finishing touches on the season, as usual, will be lots of meat-and-potatoes music.

The lineup lacks the extra excitement that, say, a world premiere can provide, but it has distinct strengths. For all of the greatest hits to be found (the difference in repertoire between the orchestra's "Celebrity" and "Favorites" series seems to get smaller every year), there are also several exceptional items on the list, from a riveting concerto for "water percussion" by Tan Dun to Alexander Zemlinsky's lush Lyric Symphony.

Even some of the most popular music scheduled has an extra jolt of novelty. It's not often that you come across a night of George Gershwin standards, including Rhapsody in Blue and selections from Porgy and Bess, conducted by a Russian. BSO music director Yuri Temirkanov has led a little bit of Gershwin here before (American in Paris figured on a gala concert last September), but this all-

Gershwin program will provide the biggest local showcase yet for his longtime love of the composer.

Fazil Say, one of the more imaginative young pianists around these days, will be the soloist in the Rhapsody. Soprano Kishna Davis and the Morgan State University Choir will be featured in the Porgy excerpts.

All-German programs

Needless to say, Temirkanov's time on the podium is of prime importance as he continues to mold the BSO. How long he will continue to do the molding is unknown; his contract ends next season and there is still no word on a renewal. Last week, BSO president John Gidwitz would say only that Temirkanov had reserved dates in 2003-2004 for the BSO.

In 2002-2003, Temirkanov will devote a good deal of attention to the great Austro / German canon -- Haydn (Clock Symphony), Mozart (Violin Concerto No. 5 with Elisabeth Batiashvili), Beethoven (including Piano Concerto No. 3 with John Lill and Symphony No. 2), Mendelssohn (Italian Symphony), Schumann (Piano Concerto with Michie Koyama), and Brahms (Symphony No. 4).

Such music is the premium fuel for every orchestra's development; the opportunity to delve deeply into this repertoire, a departure from the Russian fare he has been typecast with, is one of the things Temirkanov likes most about his BSO post.

The season is set to open with a pair of all-German programs. In addition to the Schumann and Brahms works, an overture by Carl Maria von Weber, Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 (with Pamela Frank) and Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier Suite are slated.

All of this material has been chosen for use in the BSO's possible two-week tour of Japan in late September; given the state of the Japanese economy, it's not surprising that the tour remains unfinalized at this point.

Warhorses out of the stable

Continuing his survey of Mahler symphonies with the BSO next season, Temirkanov will conduct No. 5, a work that also will be featured on the orchestra's visit to Carnegie Hall in May 2003.

Of course, Temirkanov will be in on the Russian part of the season, too, most of it tied to the Vivat! St. Petersburg festival he instigated. In February 2003, that Baltimore-

wide celebration of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary will find the BSO trotting out a whole stable of warhorses: Glinka's Russlan and Ludmila Overture, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Anna Kravtchenko as soloist), Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (with Dmitri Alexeev).

Complementing these hardly under-performed works will be Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 (with Vadim Repin) and a suite from the 1961 opera Not Love Alone by remarkable Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin.

There will be more Shostakovich earlier in the season -- his Symphony No. 10, one of the composer's most profound creations, on a program with two masterworks by Mussorgsky. The Prelude to the latter's opera Khovanschina will be paired with his Songs and Dances of Death (orchestrated by Shostakovich). The soloist in the songs will be Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who will perform them a few days earlier next season with the New York Philharmonic, also conducted by Temirkanov, at Lincoln Center.

A Russian / Iberian mix is another BSO program to be conducted by Temirkanov -- Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and Violin Concerto No. 2 (with soloist Boris Belkin); Isaac Albeniz's Iberia; and Manuel de Falla's Ritual Fire Music.

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