BSO welcomes programming suggestions

January 28, 2003|By John Gidwitz

IT HAS been fascinating to read the many viewpoints expressed over the last few weeks in The Sun concerning the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's programming.

We welcome the exchange of ideas and believe that this debate can help to bring about an even richer programming mix. When we plan the BSO season, we are inspired above all by the artistic vision of our music director, Yuri Temirkanov, the ideas of our guest conductors, the artistic aspirations of our musicians and the diverse tastes of our audience.

The BSO is constantly exploring new programming ideas with respect to specific repertoire and new concert formats. Many of these choices are the result of input from our patrons, whose views and preferences we regularly solicit.

The new "Symphony With a Twist" series, for example, has been enthusiastically received and has created an ideal opportunity to program unexpected and unfamiliar repertoire. Important works by such composers as Duke Ellington, George Antheil, Gabriel Faure, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Morton Gould, Michael Daugherty and Jacques Ibert, as some examples, were featured recently.

But let's step back for a moment and look at the BSO at this historic moment. We are privileged to have secured the leadership of Mr. Temirkanov, who some would consider the greatest conductor in the world today. He is widely known and respected for his work in the Russian repertoire. When he brings us his interpretations of Shostakovich's Babi Yar, Tchaikovsky's Iolanta or Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, we are encountering an experience that will be remembered for a lifetime.

When we find him engaging in repertoire he is known for less widely, such as the Mahler's Symphony No. 2, which he chose to open his tenure as music director, or Mahler's Symphony No. 5, which the BSO will take to Carnegie Hall in May, we enjoy the experience of a great musical mind freshly engaging with great symphonic repertoire. And who can forget Mr. Temirkanov's stirring performances of the French repertoire: Debussy, Ravel and, soon to come, Berlioz?

No conductor can be all things to all concert-goers, and the programming of an orchestra should reflect the special strengths of its music director. The BSO has always had a unique character - it does not sound and play like any other orchestra. The sound, the character and the repertoire of the BSO grow out of the relationships between musicians of the orchestra and their music directors, Sergiu Comissiona, David Zinman and Yuri Temirkanov.

In a recent Sun article, Tim Smith put together an intriguing list of works he would like to have played by the BSO. It is a good list, and over time many of the pieces he suggested will be heard. We will select the repertoire in a way that we believe will promote the artistic level of the orchestra, the excitement of the concerts and the enjoyment of the audience.

Something very special is happening at the BSO. The musicians are attaining an artistic level never before achieved. We have the leadership of a legendary conductor. Our concert hall sounds better than it ever has. Even as we write, we look forward with great anticipation to a citywide arts festival - Vivat! St. Petersburg - which was initiated by Maestro Temirkanov and symphony management in collaboration with dozens of arts organizations throughout the community.

There is always room for new ideas, new repertoire and new initiatives, even during these extremely challenging economic times. The BSO is providing our community with a golden age of music. Enjoy!

John Gidwitz is president of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

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