BSO's 2011-2012 season to salute 'revolutionary women'

Orchestra will also make its first domestic tour in a decade

March 01, 2011|By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will celebrate "revolutionary women" next season with music inspired by the lives of such heroines as Joan of Arc and Harriet Tubman.

BSO music director Marin Alsop, something of a revolutionary herself in a profession still dominated by males, will lead the orchestra in performances of Arthur Honegger's rarely encountered 1935 oratorio "Jeanne d'Arc au Boucher" ("Joan of Arc at the Stake") in November.

"The impetus for this is that 2012 is thought to be the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc," Alsop said. "She fascinates me in a number of ways. It seemed to be the perfect time to program the Honegger work, which is such a cool piece."

The oratorio, which will involve the Morgan State University Choir, Peabody-Hopkins Chorus and Peabody Children's Chorus, will also be presented at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Later in the season, the French visionary will again receive attention in a program that combines a showing of Carl Dreyer's highly valued 1928 silent film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" with the performance of a contemporary score by Richard Einhorn, "Visions of Light."

That program will be featured on the BSO's visit to Oregon and California in March 2012, the orchestra's first domestic tour since 2000. The trip will include a three-day residency at the University of California, Berkeley.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to promote the terrific orchestra we have," Alsop said, "and to be ambassadors of our region to another part of the U.S."

With Joan of Arc as a centerpiece for the season, "I then tried to build my programs from there, focusing not just on women's issues, but issues of oppression and justice," Alsop said, "and focusing on women in roles as creators or soloists."

The struggles and aspirations of Harriet Tubman inspired "Chuphshah! Harriet's Drive to Canaan," an orchestral work by Baltimore-based composer James Lee III that will receive its world premiere in September.

Next season will also see the BSO's first performance of a 1990 work by Scottish composer James MacMillan, "The Confession of Isobel Gowdie," which refers to a 17th-century Scottish woman who admitted to being a witch and was apparently executed for it.

Music composed by women is on the lineup, including Jennifer Higdon's 2010 Grammy Award-winning Percussion Concerto and a piece that could serve as the season's motto: Joan Tower's "Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman."

There will also be plenty of standards from the classical repertoire, including symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Music by Baltimore-born Philip Glass and a symphony by Baltimore-based Kevin Puts will also be heard.

Guest artists on the roster include violinists Itzhak Perlman (he'll also conduct), Hilary Hahn and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; pianists Leon Fleisher and Andrew Watts; conductors Gunther Herbig, Yan Pascal Tortelier and Vasily Petrenko.

One thing missing from next season is the Holiday Spectacular with its popular tap-dancing Santas.

"We decided to take a break after six years," said BSO president and CEO Paul Meecham. "We just weren't getting the level of attendance we needed."

Instead, the orchestra will present "Holiday Cirque de la Symphonie," a version of the program with aerialists and jugglers that was a hit for the BSO last year.

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