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BSO's lineup for 2006-2007 holds hints of Alsop's vision


A multimedia event with music by Philip Glass, a huge work for amplified violin and orchestra by John Adams, a concerto for tap dance by Michael Torke and the world premiere of a piece by Richard Danielpour -- not the usual lineup for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

And those are just a few of the notable components in the 2006-2007 season, which was announced yesterday. The increased spotlight on contemporary music highlights one of the major characteristics that will mark Marin Alsop's tenure as the BSO's music director, the first woman to hold such a post with a major American orchestra.

Contractually, Alsop will be music director designate until the start of the 2007-2008 season, the first full season she will be able to plan. That season will include 14 weeks of concerts with the orchestra. "That's when my role as music director will be manifest," she said in an interview yesterday.

But, in an effort to ensure a sense of leadership at the artistic helm, the BSO will begin referring to Alsop as music director next season. She won't be on the podium until January but will make quite a statement when she does. She'll conduct the revolutionary Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky and, with members of the Peabody Symphony Orchestra filling out the BSO ranks to create a 120-member ensemble, the sweeping Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss.

That's one of several Peabody-related items on the lineup, as the BSO salutes the conservatory's 150th anniversary. On another program, the orchestra will play the multi-award-winning Rainbow Body by Peabody faculty member Christopher Theofanidis. "His music has been performed by orchestras all over the world," said BSO artistic administrator Jeremy Rothman, "but not down the street from Peabody."

Alsop will spend six weeks with the BSO next season, appearing in nearly every series, from the mainline Celebrity and Favorites to the Symphony With a Twist and, for the first time, the Explorer Series and Family Concerts.

Although a lot of the '06-'07 planning was well under way before Alsop's appointment last summer, she has put her own stamp -- "pretty dramatically," she said -- on those programs she will conduct.

Her entry in the Explorer Series is a case in point. She will lead the East Coast premiere of LIFE: Journey Through Time by Baltimore native Glass, the dean of minimalism who "has been somewhat under-represented" on BSO programming, Alsop said. This work incorporates the projection of photography by the National Geographic's Frans Lanting -- "Unbelievable stuff," Alsop said, "so beautiful." This all-Glass program -- apparently another first for the BSO -- will include his Concerto for Saxophone Quartet.

A Celebrity series offering will find Alsop conducting the kind of old-and-new combination that "you can expect at my programs" in future seasons, she said -- Rimsky-Korsakov's evergreen Scheherazade, a rarely heard piece by Mahler that was originally part of his Symphony No. 1 (the Blumine movement), and the East Coast premiere of Adams' The Dharma at Big Sur (with Leila Josefowicz on electric violin).

Standard symphonies by Brahms and Dvorak also figure in Alsop's programs, along with such novelties as Korngold's Violin Concerto (with BSO concertmaster Jonathan Carney).

To open next season, Yuri Temirkanov will return with his new title of music director emeritus (he finishes his BSO tenure this June). He'll conduct symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich in two programs to mark the centennial of that composer's birth.

Guest conductors for '06-'07 include Roberto Abbado, Michael Christie, Gunther Herbig, James Judd, Carlos Kalmar, Louis Langree, Juanjo Mena (leading the premiere of a Richard Danielpour composition commissioned about five years ago) and Yan Pascal Tortelier.

Leon Fleisher and his wife, Katherine Jacobson, will play Mozart's two-piano version of his Concerto for Three Pianos. Other keyboard artists scheduled are Yefim Bronfman and Horacio Gutierrez.

The new season carries a guest theme as well: nature. Various works will reflect how composers drew inspiration from nature, from Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony to Messiaen's Oiseau exotiques (the first music by this important French composer the BSO has performed) and Kevin Puts' Rivers Rush.

The emphasis on nature will find the BSO and Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute collaborating on multimedia programs for the Explorer Series, complete with images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Symphony With a Twist series includes an Alsop-led program featuring Torke's Tap Concerto (danced by Tony Award-winner Savion Glover) and a survey of nature-inspired pieces led by BSO associate conductor Andrew Constantine.

Appearing on the SuperPops Series will be Maureen McGovern, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the great-grandchildren of the Von Trapp family, who inspired The Sound of Music. The Soulful Symphony will return for the third season of its affiliation with the BSO.

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