The Baltimore Symphony's 1997-98 season will be a last hurrah for David Zinman in his 13th and final year as the orchestra's music director.
The schedule, announced yesterday, calls for Zinman to spend 14 weeks with the orchestra in which he will: complete his cycle of Mahler's mature symphonic works with performances of "Das Lied von der Erde" (Oct. 23-24), make his 29th and 30th recordings with the BSO, conduct a sequel to his successful "Dance Mix" concert of several years ago (Feb. 12-14) and conduct such giant works as Bruckner's Symphony No. 8, which will be performed in Zinman's final concerts as music director (June 11-13).
Zinman also will conduct the BSO on its two-week November tour of Japan and be honored in a special concert in which the orchestra and longtime Zinman friends, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, will contribute their services without fee (June 2).
In addition, the orchestra will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel with the world premiere of a piece commissioned from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Israeli composer Shulamit Ran (May 21-23). It also will honor the centennial of George Gershwin in a three-week festival that includes: the Morgan State University Choir in performances of "Porgy and Bess" (April 30-May 2), a program of Gershwin's Broadway and Hollywood songs on the SuperPops series (May 8-9) and a program entirely of the composer's symphonic music (May 15-17).
The 1997-98 season's most prestigious guest soloists are Ma (who will perform a yet-to-be-announced concerto with Zinman on Oct. 30-Nov. 1) and pianist Mitsuko Uchida (who will perform two Mozart concertos with Zinman Feb. 26-27). Both Ma and Uchida have been close to Zinman for more than 20 years and charge the BSO considerably less than their usual fees. That can also be said of pianists Misha Dichter (Brahms' Concerto No. 1, Sept. 11-13) and Garrick Ohlsson (Rachmaninov Concerto No. 3, Oct. 3-5) as well as violinist Isaac Stern (who will appear on three of the orchestra's programs during its Japan tour).
Most of the other guest soloists -- many of them estimable musicians -- are less well-known. They include BSO concertmaster Herbert Greenberg (Mozart Concerto No. 3, Oct. 23-24), pianist Eduardus Halim (Liszt's Concerto No. 1 and "Totentanz," Jan. 30-Feb. 1) and violinist Hilary Hahn (Beethoven's Violin Concerto, June 5-7). Local debuts will be made by pianists Lars Vogt (Mozart's Concerto No. 14, Jan. 15-17) and Rudolf Buchbinder (Beethoven Concerto No. 3, Sept. 25-27) and violinist Kyoko Takezawa (Sibelius Concerto, April 2-4).
The orchestra's increasing international stature since Zinman's arrival in 1985 has made it possible to attract better (and more costly) guest conductors. With the exceptions of BSO conductor laureate Sergiu Comissiona (Jan. 30-Feb. 1) and resident conductor Christopher Seaman (April 8-9) -- next season's guest conductors should be considered as possible successors to Zinman.
The best-known names on the 1997-98 season's conducting roster are: Gunther Herbig (an all-Beethoven program, Sept. 25-27), Paavo Berglund (Mozart, Strauss and Brahms, Oct. 18-19), Jeffrey Tate (Mozart, Elgar and Mendelssohn, Jan. 15-17), Sir Neville Marriner (Haydn's "Creation" Oratorio, March 12-14) and Yuri Temirkanov (Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 and other works to-be-arranged, March 27-29). Other conductors include: Hans Graf (Rachmaninov and Dvorak, Oct. 4-5), Mario Venzago (Ravel, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov, Oct. 8-9) and Stefan PTC Sanderling (Shulamit Ran, Beethoven and Walton, May 21-23).
The orchestra has been guarded about its initial search for Zinman's successor. But rumors have circulated that one senior European conductor has said he might be interested in an offer to become the BSO's music director and that another distinguished European has said he was not interested. The latter may have been Marriner, an Englishman who made his reputation through prolific recordings with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, but who seems to be winding his career down and whose only attempt at becoming an American music director -- with the Minnesota Orchestra in the early 1980s -- was a disappointment. The conductor who expressed interest in the BSO may have been Temirkanov, the music director of Russia's St. Petersburg Philharmonic, who is said to want an American post.
Two conductors who have proved popular with the orchestra's musicians are the Finn, Berglund, who made his first appearance in Baltimore two seasons back, and the German, Herbig, who was neck-and-neck with Zinman when each was a candidate to become BSO music director 15 years ago.
But the scale of Berglund's international guest-conducting career is so great that it is unlikely he would consider taking on a second-tier American orchestra. Most of the BSO musicians love Herbig, who is considered less interesting than Zinman in the Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven repertory, but superior to him in the bigger works of the Austro-Germanic literature. The problem with Herbig -- who was music director of the Detroit and Toronto symphonies and who left those orchestras stronger than he found them -- is that almost every musician who has ever worked with him on a day-to-day basis is said to have hated the experience.
The Englishman Tate, who will appear with the BSO for the first time this season, has an excellent reputation based on appearances with the Boston Symphony and a genuinely distinguished discography on the Philips and EMI labels. But whether Tate, who is severely disabled by scoliosis, has the energy and stamina to be a hands-on music director in the Zinman manner is questionable.
The Swiss conductor Venzago has made a fine impression upon BSO musicians and audiences in recent months, but -- while still a potential candidate -- he seems to be considered too inexperienced to be a strong contender for music director.
Much less is known (in this country, at least) about Sanderling, the younger and more talented of the two conducting sons of celebrated conductor Kurt Sanderling.
The Austrian, Graf, is also largely unfamiliar to America, though he built a substantial European reputation during his years as music director (1984- 1994) of Salzburg's Mozarteum Orchestra and has enjoyed a good deal of success as a guest conductor with the Boston Symphony.
Pub Date: 2/26/97