The big news of this music season is unquestionably the inauguration of the Music Center at Strathmore, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's new, $100 million home-away-from-home in Montgomery County. If the venue lives up to its potential, the BSO stands to reap financial and artistic benefits that would make many a future music season bright.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore scene will hardly be devoid of ear-catching activity for '04-'05.
It might be a stretch to call this a season of discovery - but not a big stretch. There will be quite a lot of new music and/or underexposed older repertoire.
For starters, we'll get the world premieres of a violin concerto by Daniel Brewbaker with sensational fiddler Vadim Repin and the BSO, led by music director Yuri Temirkanov; and The Alien Corn, an opera based on a Somerset Maugham story by composer Thomas Benjamin and librettist Roger Brunyate at the Peabody Institute.
Music of our own time will turn up often all over the place, including two masterpieces from the minimalist school - John Adams' brilliant and exhilarating Grand Pianola Music (Concert Artists of Baltimore) and Steve Reich's stunning work of contrasting memories and emotions, Different Trains (Peabody Faculty Chamber Music Concert). The third leading minimalist, Philip Glass, will appear with the Bang on a Can All-Stars on the Clarice Smith Center's lineup.
You'll find music by a who's who of other major contemporary composers month after month at Peabody, from Pierre Boulez and George Crumb to Joan Tower and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Chamber Music by Candlelight at Second Presbyterian Church, featuring BSO players, will spice up its offerings with the likes of Arvo Part and Vincent Persichetti. Music in the Great Hall, too, is balancing traditional composers with the likes of Frank Martin and Jacob Druckman.
Baltimore Opera will expand its horizons by staging Bellini's I Puritani and Puccini's La fanciulla del West for the first time. Peabody Opera will unearth Massenet's largely forgotten Cendrillon, while Opera Vivente will explore a rarely encountered masterwork by Handel, Tamerlano. And don't overlook baroque rarities by Gluck and Sacchini given in concert form by Opera Lafayette, courtesy of the Clarice Smith Center.
Even if we weren't getting so much off-the-beaten-path repertoire, we'd still have good reason to greet the season warmly. Among the notable prospects: Mahler's Fourth (BSO) and Sixth (Peabody Orchestra), Strauss' Four Last Songs (BSO with Janice Chandler-Eteme), requiems by Verdi and Rutter (Baltimore Choral Arts Society), and masses by Bach (First English Lutheran Church) and Bruckner (Concert Artists).
A look at the roster of guest artists and ensembles heading this way should also quicken the pulse. Hankering for pianists? How about Garrick Ohlsson, Bruno Leonardo Gelber and Leif Ove Andsnes with the BSO, and hot newcomer Yundi Li at Shriver Hall. Violinists? Try veteran Aaron Rosand (Catonsville Presbyterian) and local favorite Hilary Hahn (BSO). Cellists? You can't go wrong with the great Natalia Gutman (Shriver) or up-and-coming Zuill Bailey (Annapolis Symphony).
The guest lists go on and on, from the Vermeer Quartet (Shriver) and the English Concert (Clarice Smith) to a starry lineup from the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society that includes John Williams and Eliot Fisk. And Temirkanov will lead his powerhouse St. Petersburg Philharmonic in a most welcome return visit.
Of course, the season will also be enlivened by our many worthy local ensembles, from Pro Musica Rara and its blasts from the past to Ruckus (UMBC) and its blasts from the present; from the Handel Choir (with new artistic director Melinda O'Neal) to the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra (with new music director Markand Thakar).
Personally, I'd hate to miss a note.