Baltimore's classical music scene was hopping in 2015, with a hearty mix of long-established organizations and recent additions, vintage music and new. Most of the performances I got to experience during the year held rewards, but these — listed in chronological order — reached an especially satisfying level:
BSO and Bruckner
In January, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra welcomed back a favorite guest conductor, Gunther Herbig, for a formidable challenge. He led the terrifically responsive ensemble in a warm and wise performance of Bruckner's 80-minute Symphony No. 8 that generated one great emotional peak after another, culminating in a soul-stirring rush of C major.
Starry trio at Shriver Hall
Also in January, Shriver Hall Concert Series presented esteemed violinist Gidon Kremer and gifted young cellist Giedre Dirvanauskaite with one of today's most exciting young piano stars, Daniil Trifonov. Their richly varied program included an impassioned account of a Rachmaninoff trio; there was sublime solo Mozart from Trifonov, too.
Peabody Chamber Opera's 'Mansfield Park'
Peabody Chamber Opera enlivened March with the welcome U.S. premiere of Jonathan Dove's clever, colorful adaptation of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park." The evocatively staged production featured an expressive cast, but the real stars were Johanna Kvam and Hanna Shin, who played the piano-duet score in scintillant fashion.
BSO and Bernstein
Marin Alsop's affinity for the music of mentor-friend Leonard Bernstein, a hallmark of her tenure as BSO music director, was reinforced in June when she led a semi-staging of "Candide" that reveled in the score's nonstop brilliance. Joining the energized orchestra were a first-rate cast, the vibrant Baltimore Choral Arts Society and droll narrator Peter Sagal.
'On the Threshold of Winter' at Peabody
Michael Hersch, a composer of uncommonly demanding music, reaches profound depths in "On the Threshold of Winter," a monodrama about approaching death. The evocatively staged Baltimore premiere in October at the Peabody Institute, with fearless, affecting soprano Ah Young Hong and the excellent Nunc ensemble, was a stunner.