For the record, BSO is making a CD this week


Concerts Thursday-Saturday will be taped for major label

Music Column


The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will do something this week it hasn't done in eight years - make a major-label recording.

Other than a limited-edition disc issued by the orchestra itself, there is no documentation of the BSO's extraordinary collaboration with music director Yuri Temirkanov.

But Marin Alsop, who succeeds Temirkanov next year, will record with the ensemble this week. If all goes well, recordings will be a regular feature of her BSO tenure.

The orchestra's most recent commercial CD, led by David Zinman and featuring violinist Hilary Hahn, was made in 1998 and released the next year on Sony Classical.

In its return to the market, also for Sony Classical, the BSO will record John Corigiliano's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (The Red Violin) during the season-ending concerts Thursday and Friday nights and Saturday morning at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. Joshua Bell will be the soloist.

In addition to taking the best edits from these live performances, a "patch session" Saturday afternoon will take care of any details that didn't come out just right.

"In my experience," Alsop says, "patches have usually been needed to cover noise in the audience, which is unavoidable."

Corigiliano's large-scale concerto, developed out of his 1999 Academy Award-winning film score for The Red Violin, was commissioned by the BSO. The premiere in September 2003, with Bell and Alsop, had to be delayed a day because of Tropical Storm Isabel, but then caused a storm of its own - the public loved the work.

Bell will perform Corigliano's Violin Sonata to fill out the CD.

Alsop, who has made several recordings for the Naxos label, expects to continue that affiliation with the BSO. The first project will be a series of Dvorak symphonies, starting next season with Nos. 7 and 8.

"The Eighth may be recorded live, like the Corigliano, with a patch session," the conductor says. "No. 7, which we did this season, isn't on the concert schedule, but we may look for an opportunity for the orchestra to get it back in their fingers just before the recording session."

Last week, Alsop could be seen and heard the world over leading the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam in a live Web cast and, earlier this season, she conducted a German orchestra in a performance that could be purchased on CD about an hour after the performance ended.

Such high-tech formats, along with Internet downloading, are becoming more common as the classical-music world gets deeper into the computer age. Can we expect such activity at the BSO?

"This is obviously an area I'm extremely interested in, on both sides of the ocean," Alsop says. "We're definitely talking about all these ideas in Baltimore."

For tickets to this week's concerts, which also include works by Rachmaninoff and Kabalevsky, call 410-783-8000.

NSO's massive Mahler

The opportunity to hear any two Mahler's symphonies in the same week is rare enough. The chance to hear No. 2, the Resurrection, and its philosophical sequel, No. 8, the Symphony of a Thousand, within 24 hours is almost too good to be true, not to mention totally irresistible.

While the BSO was performing No. 2 with Yuri Temirkanov, the National Symphony Orchestra was tackling No. 8 with Leonard Slatkin and a cast of hundreds at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, where choristers and extra brass players took over a lot of upper balcony space (the massive Eighth is always a logistical event in itself).

On Friday night, Slatkin held the large forces together with a steady hand. Although he rushed through the Veni, Creator spiritus movement, missing some of its grandeur, the result was an effective electric charge.

In the long second part of the symphony, he proved especially effective in the gentler passages, creating chamber-musiclike transparency and giving phrases considerable warmth. This was a remarkably intimate Eighth Symphony, but the big moments certainly had power, if not the earth-shaking weight I had anticipated.

The soloists were ardent, if uneven. The most beautiful sounds came from sopranos Christine Brewer and Christine Brandes, the most powerful from baritone Donnie Ray Albert. Hard-working tenor Donald Litaker communicated the text compellingly. When she wasn't below pitch, soprano Jane Eaglen sang impressively.

And there was much to admire in the combined vocal army of the Cathedral Choral Society, the Children's Chorus of Washington, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the Master Chorale of Washington and the Washington Chorus.

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