A significant increase in American music (including two world premieres), a similar increase in British works, a substantial score by an important contemporary Russian composer and quite a lot of under-performed repertoire - such elements promise to make the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2003-2004 season unusually appealing. But don't fret. There's plenty of musical comfort food, too, creating a well-balanced diet of classical fare.
"There's no subject or theme for the whole season," says music director Yuri Temirkanov. "The programming just stresses the high quality of this orchestra. It can do anything."
FOR THE RECORD - Corrections
Last week, in my article about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2003-2004 season, I inadvertently switched conductors of two programs on the Symphony With a Twist series. Marin Alsop will lead the Adams/Daugherty/Barber program; David Alan Miller will lead the Torke/Gould/Levin/Thomson bill.
Also in that article, I quoted music director Yuri Temirkanov saying that a new violin concerto was being written for sensational Russian violinist Vadim Repin and tentatively slated for the 2004-2005 season. The concerto was erroneously attributed to Dave Brubeck; it will be written by American composer Daniel Brewbaker, whose Blue Fire was played by the BSO last fall. Sorry about the confusion.
The musicians will start in September by digging into the world premiere of John Corigliano's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, subtitled The Red Violin - the music is based on the composer's Oscar-winning score to the film of that name. The concerto was co-commissioned by the BSO, along with the Atlanta Symphony, Dallas Symphony and San Francisco Ballet Association. Joshua Bell, whose playing was heard on that film score, will be the soloist. Marin Alsop will conduct this season-opening "Celebrity Series" program, which also offers the colorful fox trot for orchestra, The Chairman Dances by John Adams, and Tchaikovsky's richly folk-flavored Symphony No. 2 (Little Russian).
Corigliano, one of America's most successful and engaging composers, will also be represented later in the season. His 1990 Symphony No. 1, a harrowing, deeply personal response to the AIDS crisis, will return to the BSO's repertoire after a decade with Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart on the podium for a program in the "Symphony With a Twist" series. That popular series has quickly evolved in a couple of years into a showcase for less common music; next season, there will be particular emphasis on American items. Alsop will open the series with decidedly offbeat choices - the world premiere of a suite from a ballet called The Contract by Michael Torke, Morton Gould's Tap Dance Concerto, Todd Levin's Blur and Virgil Thomson's The Filling Station.
Another Twist concert has strong echoes from the BSO's David Zinman years. David Alan Miller will lead some more John Adams (Short Ride in a Fast Machine), along with Michael Daugherty (excerpts from his Superman-inspired Metropolis Symphony) and Samuel Barber's Symphony No. 2.
Speaking of Zinman, another of the composers championed by the former music director, Edward Elgar, will take a prominent place next season. Temirkanov will conduct the Symphony No. 1 (on a program with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 featuring local favorite Lang Lang) and the Cello Concerto (with Mischa Maisky as soloist on a program also containing Bach and Mozart). "I don't think the Elgar symphony is constructed well," Temirkanov says, "but parts of it are absolute genius."
Temirkanov will also conduct the other British fare scheduled next season, two pieces by Benjamin Britten - the Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes and Les Illuminations, a setting of Rimbaud poems. The soloist in the latter will be stellar soprano Barbara Hendricks. "Les Illuminations is absolutely first-class," says Temirkanov, "a wonderful piece of music, very subtle, in very good taste and style."
Not surprisingly, the conductor, who won't make his first appearance of the season until November, will also lead a fair amount of Russian music next season, especially by Prokofiev. That composer's Alexander Nevsky, performed in synch to the iconic Eisenstein film, will feature mezzo Nancy Maultsby and the Choral Arts Society of Washington. (The work will also be performed at the Kennedy Center.) A second all-Prokofiev program offers the Suite from The Love for Three Oranges, Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Yefim Bronfman) and the Symphony No. 7. The latter was last played by the BSO in 1977. "It won't have success here, because it never does," Temirkanov says. "But it ought to be heard."
Giya Kancheli's Al niente, composed for Temirkanov in 2000, will get its first BSO performance. Music by Shostakovich is also slated - Symphony No. 5, one of Temirkanov's signature interpretations, and Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Ignat Solzhenitsyn). And the conductor has not slighted Tchaikovsky, programming such favorites as the Pathetique Symphony and excerpts from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.