It took only half a season for Yuri Temirkanov to make a powerful and positive impression as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. What he accomplishes next, during his first full season, promises to be even more striking.
Although Temirkanov, who conducted last night's annual gala concert, won't be on the podium again until late October, his influence will be felt from this week's official opening of the 2000-2001 season right through to June.
"He's already changed the string sound," says trumpeter Langston J. Fitzgerald III. "And he's a very encouraging conductor. He wants you to express yourself."
From the results of last season's exceptional closing concerts with Temirkanov, it's clear that the musicians have been relishing that opportunity. "It is impossible to count the number of times I played the 'Pathetique,' " violinist Leri Slutsky says of the Tchaikovsky symphony the BSO performed in June. "I thought it was impossible to do anything new with this symphony; it's like a textbook. But all of a sudden it sounded new. Yuri has a lot of unique, individual ideas about piece."
The new season will offer ample opportunity to take the full measure of the music director, whose style has made a remarkable impression on his players. "There's a lot of emotional depth there," says violinist Ellen Pendleton Troyer. Previous music director David Zinman "was a big emotional guy, too, but with a different delivery system," she adds. "Temirkanov asks a lot more of us as players in an emotional sense."
Flutist Emily Skala seconds that notion. "He speaks through his heart," she says. "He commands everybody's respect and admiration."
The BSO will have a chance to demonstrate those feelings when Temirkanov leads the ensemble in standard symphonies by Brahms, Dvorak, Mahler and Sibelius, along with works by Wagner, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky. The music director will also introduce Tchaikovsky's endearing opera "Iolanta" to Baltimore in November and will explore two action-packed Russian scores, Shostakovich's "Leningrad" Symphony and Prokofiev's "Ivan the Terrible," both in June.
The latter work, like "Iolanta," will feature the BSO Chorus. Under new director Frank Nemhauser, the chorus also will be heard in such masterworks as Bach's "Magnificat" in February (conducted by Bobby McFerrin) and Mozart's "Requiem" in March (with Temirkanov).
Mario Venzago, who made such a splash as the new Summer MusicFest artistic director in July, will get the season started conducting works by Schumann, Strauss and Prokofiev (the Piano Concerto No. 5, with touted pianist Gianluca Cascioli). Other guests on the podium this season include Gunther Herbig, Libor Pesek, Hans Graf, James DePreist and Zinman (leading Bruckner's Ninth Symphony).
Among several notable soloists who will be appearing with the ensemble are Midori (Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto), Pamela Frank (Beethoven's Violin Concerto), Yefim Bronfman (Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3), and Jean-Yves Thibaudet (Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1). Lang Lang, a young pianist championed by Temirkanov, will play Grieg's Piano Concerto with the orchestra here and on its Northeast U.S. tour in April, which includes a stop at Carnegie Hall.
Except for Mark O'Connor's Double Concerto for Two Violins (with the crossover composer and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloists) next month, contemporary music is conspicuously lacking this season, but that area perhaps will be addressed in future seasons. Meanwhile, the BSO's 84th season will doubtless find Temirkanov putting an even stronger stamp on the orchestra and continuing to enjoy a honeymoon with the players that just might go on indefinitely.
"He's a poet on the podium," says oboist James Ostryniec. "He's also enigmatic. There is a mystique about how he interprets things. It's very exciting. He could conduct 'Stars and Stripes Forever' and I would be euphoric."
A complete BSO concert schedule for the 2000-01 season can be found online at www.sunspot.net/features. click on "Classical concerts" under the LIVE Fall Guide to the Arts.
The series opener
What: Opening of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2000-2001 subscription series with conductor Mario Venzago and pianist Gianluca Cascioli
When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday (tickets are $24 to $62), 11 a.m. Saturday ($18 to $37)
Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Cathedral and Preston streets