Newly installed squeak-free seats and an exceptional variety of repertoire and artists will greet audiences for the Peabody Conservatory of Music's 2000-2001 concert season.
The long-awaited seats, the first renovation of Peabody's Friedberg Concert Hall in 17 years, will not be the only novel sensation in store. The Baltimore premiere of Philip Glass' Double Concerto for Timpani and Orchestra (co-commissioned by the conservatory), a program of works by eminent British composer Nicholas Maw, and a production of Benjamin Britten's brilliant opera "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are among the season's highlights.
Maw, whose 1993 Concerto for Violin and 1987 "Odyssey" for orchestra helped establish him as one of the more substantive neo-romantics of our time, is a recent hire for the Peabody faculty. His operatic version of "Sophie's Choice" is slated for a premiere at London's Covent Garden in 2002. He'll be the focus of a November concert of instrumental and vocal works conducted by Peabody Director Robert Sirota, who will also conduct the Britten production by Peabody Opera Theatre in March.
Also on the operatic front: Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" (on a double bill with another 17th century masterwork, Marc-Antoine Charpentier's "Les Arts Florissants") in February and Jules Massenet's "Manon" in November.
In addition to the Glass concerto, the Peabody Symphony Orchestra has programmed Mahler's valedictory Symphony No. 9, Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. The Peabody Concert Orchestra has on its plate such works as Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6, Respighi's "The Pines of Rome," and, with the Peabody Chorus, Vaughan Williams' Mass in G minor and Part 1 of Handel's "Messiah" (in an unusual pairing with Act 2 of Puccini's "La Boheme").
Conductors for those ensembles include Hajime Teri Murai, Edward Polochick, Gustav Meier and Ronald Gretz. Soloists include pianist Boris Slutsky (Tchaikovsky's Concerto No. 1), violinist Victor Danchenko and violist Victoria Chiang (Mozart's "Sinfonia concertante"), soprano Joanne Robinson (Britten's "Les Illuminations") and guitarist Manuel Barrueco (Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez). The program with Barrueco, led by Murai and also featuring Verdi's "La forza del destino" Overture and the Suite from "The Miraculous Mandarin," will be repeated at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York in April.
Other guitar action in the season includes a concert by the Classical Guitar Duo of Julian Gray and Ronald Pearl; an evening of Latin American guitar music performed by Peabody guitar students; and a "Charlie Byrd Memorial Concert" in January featuring the jazz great's colleagues, guitarist Gene Bertoncini, percussionist Chuck Webb and vocalist/bassist Joe Byrd.
The remarkable Juilliard String Quartet will visit Peabody for a concert in October that offers works by Haydn, Mendelssohn and under-appreciated American composer Ruth Porter Crawford. There will be lots of other chamber music during the season, provided by the Peabody Wind Ensemble, Peabody Trio, and various faculty artists. There will be room, too, for a 25th anniversary concert by the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble and a recital by eminent French organist Marie-Claire Alain.
Various subscription packages are available now. Single tickets go on sale Sept. 5. Call 410-659-8124.
Theater organ performance
The special art of the theater organ, an essential component of the silent film era, is being kept alive by a precious few artists. One of them is Baltimore-born, Peabody-trained Michael Britt. In addition to classical and liturgical playing (he's the organist at the Shrine of the Little Flower), Britt is prized for his silent film accompaniment.
You can check out his talents when he provides live music for films starring Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy, as well as a slide show about old movie palaces, at 7 p.m. Friday at Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul Street. Admission is free; donations accepted. Call 410-889-6819.
Soprano wins contest
Kenneithia Redden Mitchell, a soprano sponsored by the Rosa Ponselle Foundation, won first place at the Boris Christoff International Competition last month in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Mitchell, who studied at Morgan State University with Betty Ridgeway and with Ponselle Foundation music director Igor Chichagov in New York, will sing the role of Violetta in Verdi's "La Traviata" with the Sofia National Opera as part of her prize. More than 100 singers took part in the competition.