Music is among the most evanescent of the arts -- it disappears into the air -- but it is probably the one that produces the most highs (when performances are good) and lows (when they are bad). What follows, therefore, is a guide to performances in the season about to begin that (in this listener's view) seem the most likely to produce the former rather than the latter.
Baltimore's premier musical organization is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the 1993-1994 season promises a bumper crop of interesting new works, established and emerging soloists, and, in addition to BSO music director David Zinman, several important conductors.
Among the young composers the BSO will showcase is Lowell Liebermann, one of the best of the New York-based "new Romantics," whose Flute Concerto will be performed by the musician who commissioned it, James Galway, on Oct. 21, 22 and 23. Two younger composers whose work Zinman has consistently championed in his "Discovery" concerts are David Dzubay and Michael Daugherty, and this season both men have works in the orchestra's main subscription series -- Dzubay's "Snake Alley" on Nov. 18, 19 and 20, and Daugherty's " 'Superman' Symphony" on Jan. 6 and 7 in Baltimore and on Jan. 9 in New York's Carnegie Hall.
Not all the new works will be by younger composers, of course. Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated (Sept. 22 and 23) will be the Symphony No. 3 of the 60-year-old Henryk Gorecki, which has become a cult favorite largely because Zinman's recording of the piece (with the London Sinfonietta) on the Nonesuch label became one of the best-selling classical records in history. On April 14, 15 and 16 Zinman and the BSO will give the world premiere of the Symphony No. 2 by Gordon Cyr, who teaches at Towson State University and whose warmhearted music is never afraid to go its own way. The following week, the orchestra and its music director will give the Baltimore premiere of John Corigliano's moving and much talked-about Symphony No. 1, a work that the composer wrote in memory of the gifted friends he has lost to AIDS.
The orchestra rarely fails to engage a large number of interesting soloists, and this season is no exception: the Irishman Barry Douglas in Mozart's Concerto No. 25 (Oct. 8, 9 and 10); the extraordinarily fluent Argentinian Bruno-Leonardo Gelber in Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 (Nov. 18, 19 and 20); the 25-year-old Frenchwoman Helene Grimaud, who ranks with Evgeny Kissin as one of her generation's most interesting pianists, in Brahms' Olympian Concerto No. 2; the Romanian Radu Lupu, whose playing is often as inspired as his demeanor is crazed, in Beethoven's Concerto No. 1 (Jan. 20, 21 and 22); that Czech master of 1,000 shades of pianissimo, Ivan Moravec, in the Schumann Concerto (Feb. 17, 18 and 19); Awadagin Pratt, who has been taking the country by storm the last year since becoming the first African-American instrumentalist to win an important international competition (1992's Naumburg), in the Grieg Concerto (Jan. 14, 15 and 16); and the always interesting (if somewhat idiosyncratic) Alexander Toradze in the Tchaikovsky Concerto (Feb. 2, 3, 4 and 5).
The season will also feature several fine European conductors: the BSO debut of the most frequently recorded conductor in history, Sir Neville Marriner, in Berlioz, Mozart and Tchaikovsky (Nov. 5, 6 and 7); and the reappearances of the German Gunther Herbig conducting Beethoven's mighty "Missa Solemnis" (March 10, 11 and 12) and the Dutchman Hans Vonk in Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and 2).
Although it may be the best orchestra south of Philadelphia, the BSO is not this city's only orchestra. In its concerts at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium, the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and its music director, Anne Harrigan, have developed a loyal following in the 10 years of its existence. In its 11th season, Harrigan and the BCO have at least two programs that promise to be of interest. The first is the season opener, which sandwiches Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony between works of Beethoven, the "Coriolan" Overture and the "Emperor" Concerto (Nov. 3). The second is the season's finale, in which the talented pianist Stephen Prutsman should reap rich dividends in Mozart's Concerto No. 15 from his characteristic elegance and thoughtful lyricism (May 11).
Concert Artists of Baltimore
While the Concert Artists of Baltimore and its music director, Edward Polochick, have moved this season to LeClerc Hall at Notre Dame College, its programs -- which mix choral music with chamber orchestra music -- continue to be as interesting as ever. The first concert features Handel's rarely heard masterpiece "Dixit Dominus" (Nov. 13); the second, Mozart's "Great" Mass in C Minor (Feb. 5); the third is an all-Bach program that combines a cantata and two motets with Suite No. 1 and Concerto for Two Violins; and the fourth boasts a performance of Ginastera's "Variaciones Concertantes," one of the least appreciated of the 20th-century's genuine musical masterpieces.
Fanciers of choral music in this city rarely miss any performances by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and its music director, Tom Hall. This season at Kraushaar Auditorium, Hall's programs with the society will include a performance of Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" (Nov. 7); a concert of music on Old Testament themes by such Jewish composers as Aaron Copland, Ernest Bloch and Samuel Adler (March 6); and the first performance in years of Rossini's "Petite Messe Solenelle" (May 14). The society will also give a joint performance at Meyerhoff Hall with the popular The King's Singers (Feb. 14) and a non-subscription performance of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation (Nov. 21).
One of the genuine absences in Baltimore's musical life is the opportunity to hear the world's great orchestras, but that can be remedied by trips to Washington's Kennedy Center. Among the great orchestras and conductors visiting this year are the Philadelphia Orchestra and Wolfgang Sawallisch (Sept. 29), the Berlin Philharmonic and Claudio Abbado (Oct. 20), and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Kurt Masur (Oct. 25).
In the 1993-1994 season, the Baltimore Opera Company will continue to do business in its usual pasta-with-red-sauce fashion: Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor (Oct. 16, 20, 22 and 24); Verdi's Macbeth (March 12, 16, 18 and 20); and Puccini's "La Boheme" (April 23, 27, 29 and May 1). But standard fare does not have to be unremarkable. The "Lucia" will be designed by the same team that did the BOC's remarkable "Salome" (1989) and "Don Carlo" (1991), and the "Macbeth" will feature the great bass-baritone James Morris in the title role.
Opera lovers interested in less ordinary fare have the performances of the Peabody Opera Theatre and its artistic director, Roger Brunyate, to look forward to. This year Brunyate is producing Britten's wonderful "Albert Herring" (Nov. 18, 19 and 20); Monteverdi's "The Coronation of Poppea" (April 5, 6, and 7); and a new opera based on Edgar Allan Poe's "Ligeia" by the composer Augusta Read Thomas (Feb. 20) that was commissioned by Mstislav Rostropovich for France's Evian Festival this May. Aficionados can also travel to the Kennedy Center for the performances of the Washington Opera, which will present the world premiere performances of Dominick Argento's Valentino" (Jan. 15-Feb. 23) and the first major American staging in 79 years of Eugen d'Albert's "Tiefland" (Nov. 13-Nov. 28).Chamber music, solo recitals
For many music lovers, the greatest experiences are to be found in chamber music and solo recitals. The most important series of this kind in the city itself is the Shriver Hall Series, and this season its impressive roster of visiting artists includes: the Emerson String Quartet (Oct. 9); a performance by a remarkable piano quartet made up of four young virtuosos -- pianist Christopher O'Riley, violinist Pamela Frank, violist Paul Neubauer and cellist Carter Brey (Nov. 13); Richard Goode, perhaps the finest of American pianists (Dec. 4); the wonderful soprano Benita Valente (March 20); and, in his first major Baltimore recital, Awadagin Pratt (April 10).
Pratt will also perform (Jan. 8) in the Baltimore area's other major recital series, Columbia's Candlelight Concerts in Smith Theatre at Howard Community College. Other performers in the series include Richard Goode (Feb. 20); Hesperion XX, an early music ensemble (March 5); the Emerson String Quartet (April 9); cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O'Riley (May 7); and the Lark Quartet (May 14).
The best-attended recital in Baltimore this year, however, is likely to be the one given by superstar soprano Kathleen Battle in Meyerhoff Hall in a benefit for Morgan State University (Jan. 19). The second best-attended is likely to be one by the famous bel canto tenor Chris Merrit in another benefit concert -- this time for the Baltimore Opera Company -- at Grace United Methodist Church (Nov. 21). Other outstanding concerts include several by the Peabody Conservatory's distinguished faculty at Friedberg Hall: the great guitarist Manuel Barrueco (Sept. 29); the Peabody Trio in an appearance that celebrates the 100th birthday of the conservatory's preparatory department (Feb. 23); the violinist Victor Danchenko (Oct. 27); and the violist Roberto Diaz (March 9). Other worthy concerts include several by the Towson Chamber Players at the Fine Arts Center at Towson State University: a program that includes a world premiere called "World Premiere" by the composer William Kleinhasser (Oct. 3); a concert that includes a rare performance of Walton's "Facade" for narrator and ensemble (Nov. 7); and a program of piano trios by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Baltimore composer Robert Hall Lewis (April 10).
More chamber music
The Second Presbyterian Church inaugurates its concert series on Sept. 12 with chamber music that features BSO assistant conductor David Lockington playing the cello along with several friends. Other concerts in the series include a recital by BSO principal cellist Mihaly Virizlay and pianist Robin Kissinger (Nov. 21), an appearance by the Naval Academy Men's Glee Club (Jan. 23) and a recital by pianist Gregory Sioles (April 17).
Aficionados of the fiddle probably won't want to miss three free concerts sponsored by the Yale Gordon Trust: Leila Josefowicz (Oct. 10 at Har Sinai Congregation), Nina Beilina (Oct. 24 at Temple Oheb Shalom) and Carmit Zori (April 24 at Temple Oheb Shalom). The trust is also sponsoring a recital by Agi Rado at the Baltimore Museum of Art in which the Hungarian-born pianist will also talk about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor (Dec. 5).
Finally, everyone who cares about the art of piano playing will want to travel to Washington to hear a rare recital by the almost legendary Maria Tipo, who plays Scarlatti better than any pianist alive and who will be playing at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater (Nov. 19).
Here are five concerts not to be missed. They may not necessarily be conventionally "good," but they almost certainly won't be boring.
* The Washington Opera gives Eugen d'Albert's "Tiefland" its first major American production in 79 years at the Kennedy Center Opera House (Nov. 13-Nov. 28).
* Naumburg Prize-winning pianist Awadagin Pratt gives his first major local recitals in the Candlelight Series (Jan. 8) and in the Shriver Hall Series (April 10).
* Superstar soprano Kathleen Battle gives a recital in Meyerhoff Hall to benefit Morgan State University (Jan. 19).
* David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform Gordon Cyr's Symphony No. 2 (April 14-16) in Meyerhoff Hall.
* Pianist Helene Grimaud joins Zinman and the BSO for BrahmsConcerto No. 2 in the Meyerhoff (June 3-5).
WHERE TO CALL
For more information on area classical music performances, call:
* Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, (410) 887-2259
* Baltimore Choral Arts Society, (410) 523-7070
* Baltimore Opera, (410) 685-0692
* Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, (410) 783-8000
* Candlelight Concerts, (410) 715-0034 or (301) 596-6203
Concert Artists of Baltimore, (410) 764-7371
* Fine Arts Center at Towson State University, (410) 830-2787
* Grace United Methodist Church, (410) 433-6650
* Kennedy Center, (202) 444-1324
* Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, (410) 783-8000
* Peabody Conservatory of Music, (410) 659-8124
* Second Presbyterian Church, (410) 889-6819
* Shriver Hall, (410) 516-7164