The two most anticipated events in the area's classical music season concern the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The first is the resolution of considerable differences between the BSO's players and management, as the players' contract expires Sept. 16. The second is the return of music director David Zinman to the podium -- after a nine-month sabbatical -- for his 10th year.
About the symphony's labor negotiations, one can only hope there will not be a repetition of the six-month strike that destroyed the BSO's 1988-1989 season. About Zinman's return, all one needs to do is to enjoy it.
The season certainly will open on a joyful note Sept. 14-15, with Zinman conducting Mahler's enormous, Earth-embracing Symphony No. 3. Other works in the BSO's season worth waiting for are performances of Samuel Barber's rarely heard choral work, "Prayers of Kierkegaard," and Mozart's powerful C-minor Mass, which will be led by the great choral conductor Robert Shaw (Oct. 19-21).
Another unusual work to be performed in the BSO's season is Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8. This harrowing work ranks among this century's greatest symphonies, and Zinman -- who only became interested in Shostakovich a few seasons ago -- will conduct it Nov. 9-11. The important young soloists who will make their first appearances with the orchestra this season include the much-talked-about teen-age violinists Sarah Chang (Nov. 9-11) and Hilary Hahn (Jan. 25-27), as well as the thoughtful and brilliant young Norwegian pianist, Leif Ove Andsnes (May 30-June 2).
The BSO will not be the only orchestra worth hearing this season. The Philadelphia Orchestra will visit Meyerhoff Hall under the leadership of its current music director, Wolfgang Sawallisch (Oct. 11), and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and its music director, Anne Harrigan, will steal a march on the BSO by being the first to present the brilliant young Korean violinist, Chee-Yun, in a concerto (Oct. 25).
The place to hear the greatest number of visiting orchestras, of course, is Washington's Kennedy Center. Among the important international orchestras that will appear in the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) series are: London's BBC Symphony Orchestra (Oct. 22); Moscow's Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra (Nov. 5); the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (Jan. 20); the St. Petersburg Philharmonic (Feb. 11); the Boston Symphony (April 13); and the Israel Philharmonic (April 21).
Baltimore is considered neither large nor sophisticated enough to play host to artists who can sell out such places as New York's Carnegie Hall or the Kennedy Center. That rule will be tested this season by the BSO, which will present Evgeny Kissin, the young Russian who is perhaps the greatest pianist of his generation, in recital at the Meyerhoff (Jan. 7).
Other recitals and chamber music concerts include: those in Columbia's Candlelight Series (pianist Richard Goode, Oct. 15; Ying Quartet, Dec. 2; and cellist Anner Bylsma and pianist Malcolm Bilson, Feb. 2); the Shriver Hall Series (pianist Peter Serkin, Oct. 22; violinist Pamela Frank and pianist Claude Frank, March 16; and cellist Stephen Kates, April 13); Chamber Music Society of Baltimore (Colorado String Quartet, Oct. 1); the Second Presbyterian Concert Series (violinist Earl Carlyss and pianist Ann Schein, Sept. 17); and the huge number of concerts in Washington's WPAS series (Mitsuko Uchida, Nov. 15; baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Dec. 1; pianist Andras Schiff, March 20; and a joint recital by Schiff and superstar mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, March 22).
Baltimore's Meyerhoff Hall will be the site of a recital by an even more popular singer than Bartoli. Leontyne Price, one of the great sopranos of the century, will sing a concert to benefit Morgan State University (March 3).
Opera is the most extravagant and, nowadays, the most popular of the musical arts. Baltimore's opera lovers are not likely to miss this season's productions by the Baltimore Opera Company: VTC Verdi's "La Traviata" (Oct. 14, 18, 20 and 21); Lehar's "The Merry Widow (Nov. 11, 15, 17, 18 and 19); Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers" (March 9, 13, 15, 16 and 17); and Puccini's "Tosca" (April 20, 24, 26, 27 and 28). Ravel's two one-act operas, "L'heure espagnole" and "L'enfantet des sortileges," will be performed by the Peabody Conservatory's Opera Theatre (March 14-16).
More adventurous opera fans may go to Washington for the Washington Opera's more adventurous fare, which includes Verdi's "Luisa Miller" (Nov. 4-25), Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier" (Nov. 11-26), the American premiere of Hans Krasa's "Betrothal in a Dream" (Jan. 6-Feb. 1), and Boito's "Mefistofele" (Feb. 29-March 19).
The best single cast of any opera in the Baltimore-Washington area this season, however, is to be found in today's Washington Concert Opera's production of Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman," which stars James Morris and Deborah Voight.
Baltimore's a good town in which to hear choral music, and that's largely because of the activities of: the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, whose 1995-1996 season under music director Tom Hall will will include performances of Orff's "Carmina Burana" (Nov. 18) and Honegger's "King David" (March 24); the Handel Choir of Baltimore, which will perform Bach's B minor Mass (Feb. 25) and Handel's "Solomon" (April 14); and the Concert Artists of Baltimore, whose music director Edward Polochick will conduct such rarely heard items as Puccini's "Messa di Gloria" (Nov. 4) and Britten's "Hymn to Saint Cecilia" (Feb. 10).