BSO to perform at Carnegie Hall

MUSIC

April 29, 2003|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

It's an important week for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

On Saturday, the ensemble returns to Carnegie Hall after a two-year absence, bringing with it the daunting challenge of Mahler's Symphony No. 5, which we'll hear first at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall on Thursday and Friday nights. It's the kind of work that can bring out the best -- and worst -- of an orchestra, not to mention a conductor. And since it's a work that has been played on the Carnegie stage by the world's greatest orchestras -- not to mention conductors, again -- the pressure is just a wee bit greater.

Yuri Temirkanov's affinity for the soulful elements in Mahler has already been effectively revealed in past years when he led the First, Second and Third symphonies with the BSO. It will be interesting to experience what he does with the emotional roller-coaster ride of the Fifth, which contains many elements that would find distinct echoes in the music of Shostakovich.

From the funeral march at the start to the famous, haunting Adagietto and the whirlwind finale, this symphony has much to say to musicians and listeners alike. How well it "speaks" in Carnegie Hall on Saturday could well influence perceptions about where Temirkanov's BSO ranks among American orchestras today, since, rightly or wrongly, opinions in New York count at least double those anywhere else.

When the orchestra played Carnegie Hall in 2001, guest pianist Lang Lang got most of the attention in the press. (It was his New York debut.) The BSO will have another young, gifted soloist this time, too -- violinist Elisabeth Batiashvili in Prokofiev's Concerto No. 1. But I suspect the BSO will not find itself playing second fiddle in the reviews. By choosing a mighty Mahler symphony, Temirkanov is inviting all ears to focus on an orchestra that increasingly bears his inspired and inspiring stamp.

For tickets to the BSO's Meyerhoff performances of this program, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, call 410-783-8000.

Departures

In other BSO news, four valued players will be departing after this season.

Adrian Semo, the Romanian-born violinist who has served the orchestra with distinction for 30 years, the last 29 of them as associate concertmaster, plans to retire. Also retiring is Joseph Bykov, a Russian-born violinist who has been with the BSO for 27 years, including 19 as assistant concertmaster.

Elizabeth Rowe, the BSO's assistant principal flutist, will join the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, also as assistant principal flutist, in July. And Denise Tryon, a member of the horn section, will head to the Detroit Symphony.

Last concerts

Talk about a real trouper. I imagine it won't be easy for Leslie B. Dunner to face conducting his final concerts as music director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra this weekend, having been let go by the board of directors -- without any persuasive, publicly offered justification -- after five successful seasons. But now Dunner will have to make those appearances on the heels of emergency surgery Saturday to remove an intestinal blockage.

The conductor, who was to be released from the hospital yesterday, announced that he would be on the podium for the orchestra's -- and his -- season finale, as scheduled. The all-Russian program includes Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto (with Liang Chai as soloist) and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, 801 Chase St., Annapolis. For tickets, call 410-263-0907.

Arts festival

Getting back to Yuri Temirkanov, the annual arts festival he directs in St. Petersburg in late December/early January will have an American music theme this year. And, if the funding comes through (efforts are underway to secure the necessary $100,000), participants will include the Morgan State University Choir in a Gershwin program like the one it performed with Temirkanov and the BSO here last fall.

A separate Morgan State program of spirituals also is being planned for the festival, which showcases the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, major guests artists and the wintry beauty of the Russian city.

New post

In another transition among local music directors, T. Herbert Dimmock will become director emeritus of the Handel Choir of Baltimore at the conclusion of this season. Dimmock has led the choir for 25 years, overseeing considerable growth in personnel, repertoire, quality and finances. The organization, which was broke when he began his tenure, soon developed an endowment of $750,000 with an initial contribution from Dimmock himself.

Under his leadership, the ensemble has sung almost all of Handel's major choral works, as well as more than 300 other works new to the repertoire of the choir, which was founded in 1934. A search for a successor will begin shortly; some candidates are expected to be among guest conductors appearing with the choir next season.

Dimmock's final appearance as music director will be on May 31 at the Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University, when he leads a performance of the monumental Requiem by Verdi. A gala celebration of Dimmock's 25 years with the Handel Choir is being planned in conjunction with this concert. For ticket information, call 410-366-6544.

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