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Baltimore Symphony sets a fresh tone for 2004-2005


The inauguration of a "second home" and a gala with Yo-Yo Ma; two premieres and a smattering of other contemporary pieces; a touch of opera and the biggest dose of choral music in several years; substantial solo spots for ensemble members and an exceptional lineup of guest pianists -- these are among the highlights of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2004-2005 season.

"There is a tremendous amount of stuff we haven't played often, or haven't done before," says BSO president John Gidwitz. "Musicians made many suggestions; we also got ideas from board members and volunteers. I think what came out is one of the freshest seasons we've offered in a long time."

The season's biggest news is clearly the BSO's debut as resident orchestra of the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Montgomery County, which is on track to open in February 2005. Many of the programs (from next February on) presented at the BSO's principal home, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, will also be presented at Strathmore.

A splashy gala to open the center has long been planned. Details on that and the rest of the new hall's inaugural season will be released next month, but the Strathmore gala is likely to be the same as one held Feb. 4, 2005, at Meyerhoff. Subscribers will have the first opportunity to buy tickets for this event, which will be conducted by BSO music director Yuri Temirkanov.

The program will offer a newly commissioned work by a remarkably successful, young American composer, Michael Hersch, and Dvorak's Cello Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist. The Baltimore gala also promises a reprise of a memorable collaboration between Temir-kanov, the BSO and the Morgan State University Choir -- selections from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

Temirkanov, who has recovered from an illness that caused him to cancel appearances last month, is scheduled to be on the podium for a dozen subscription concert programs during the '04-'05 season.

He will lead the first performance of the Violin Concerto by notable American composer Daniel Brewbaker. This score is being written for sensational Russian violinist Vadim Repin, who will perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto on the same, season-finale program.

Temirkanov will conduct plenty of standard repertoire by Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, Respighi, Debussy and others, but he will also take the orchestra down less-trodden paths.

Examples include Charles Ives' wildly inventive Central Park in the Dark, Shosta-kovich's intense Symphony No. 6 and Prokofiev's infrequently encountered Piano Concerto No. 4 for left hand.

Going solo

The soloist in that Prokofiev work will be Gary Graffman, one of the top-flight keyboard artists due next season. The others:

* Helene Grimaud in the Schumann concerto (paired with Brahms' Symphony No. 1, Temirkanov conducting).

* Garrick Ohlsson in Brahms' epic Concerto No. 2 (an all-Brahms bill with Schoenberg's brilliant orchestration of the G minor Piano Quartet, led by Thomas Dausgaard).

* Leif Ove Andsnes in Rachmaninoff's lush Concerto No. 2 (conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier; underexposed works by Sibelius and Hindemith).

* Arnaldo Cohen in Gershwin's Concerto in F (conductor Eri Klas; favorites by Smetana, Tchaikovsky and Copland).

* Eduardus Halim in Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Temirkanov; a Latin-theme program with Rodion Shchedrin's imaginative takes on Albeniz and Bizet).

* Elisso Virsaladze in Beethoven's Concerto No. 4 (Temirkanov; Mahler's Symphony No. 4).

* Bruno Leonardo Gelber in Mozart's Concerto No. 23 (Temirkanov; Elgar's Enigma Variations).

* Christopher O'Riley in a Mozart concerto TBA (conductor Bobby McFerrin).

A percussionist is also on the guest list -- Colin Currie, in a 1997, BSO-commissioned work by Christopher Rouse, Der Gerettete Alberich (conductor Roberto AbBado; works by Beethoven and Richard Strauss).

In addition to Repin, the BSO will welcome back other notable violinists. Local favorite Hilary Hahn will return to play Prokofiev's Concerto No. 1, conducted by Marin Alsop on a program with Brahms' Symphony No. 3 and fanfares by Copland and Joan Tower. And Stefan Jackiw will perform Saint-Saens' Violin Concerto No. 3 (Temirkanov, Franck's Symphony in D minor).

Violinist Henning Kraggerud will play Mozart's Concerto No. 5 (conductor Kwame Ryan, music by Grieg and Beethoven). Another violinist, to be named, will be featured on a program led by Junichi Hirokami that offers two relative rarities: Bernstein's Divertimento and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3.

BSO concertmaster Jona-than Carney will take two solo turns -- Bruch's radiant Scottish Fantasy (Temirkanov, with ballet music by Aram Khachaturian) and, joined by BSO principal bassist Robert Barney, the Grand Duo Concertante by Giovanni Bottesini.

The latter will be on a program that brings BSO cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski into the limelight, too, for Elgar's profound Cello Concerto (conductor to be named).

BSO principal oboist Katherine Needleman will perform a Mozart concerto (conductor Gunther Herbig, works by Beethoven, Liszt and Tchai-kovsky).

Symphony with a twist

BSO principal second violinist Qing Li will move center stage for Ravel's fiery Tzigane on a gypsy-theme Symphony With a Twist program led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who has slated works by Enesco, de Falla and dynamic contemporary composer Osvaldo Golijov.

Other conductors and programs for the Symphony With a Twist series: Alsop and a Shakespeare theme that includes Mendelssohn's sparkling Midsummer Night's Dream; Michael Stern and a feast of romantic orchestral and operatic music (with mezzo Michelle DeYoung); McFerrin and an all-Mozart concert.

Choral music, in short supply since the controversial disbanding of the BSO Chorus a few years ago, will make a renewed presence.

Faure's sublime Requiem, featuring the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, will be conducted by Mario Venzago on an eclectic program that also offers Glazunov's Alto Saxophone Concerto (with soloist Gary Louie). And the Morgan State University Choir will join the orchestra for Mendelssohn's under-appreciated Symphony No. 2, known as Lobgesang, conducted by Jun Markl.

Other vocal music slated next season: Richard Strauss' transcendent Four Last Songs, sung by soprano Janice Chandler-Eteme (with Temirkanov); and excerpts from Mussorgsky's monumental Boris Godunov, sung by bass Paata Burchuladze (also with Temirkanov).

Information on the BSO's SuperPops season will be finalized shortly. Subscription renewals for both the classical and pops series will be going out in the next few weeks. For more information, call 410-783-8000.

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